March 25,2021

Episode 6

From genre-defying music out of Senegal to black convict work songs from Texas prisons

Picture by Marta Witkowska
Picture by Marta Witkowska

In the sixth episode of TSIR – an adventurous and inspiring global journey for music lovers, we discover experimental Hip Hop for Japanese horror films and celebrate gorgeous genre-defying music from Senegal. We also find out more about Free Middle Eastern Music, get to know black convict work songs from Texas prisons and enjoy nine minutes of atmospheric, eerie and sinister deliciousness from Australia.

Featured Artists: Wau Wau Collectif

The Wau Wau Collectif is a group of various musicians from Senegal, West Africa and Sweden. Their just-released debut album, "Yaral Sa Doom", brings together a genre-defying mix of different musical styles, which are inspired by West African traditions, Spiritual Jazz and Dub Rhythms. Still, within this mix of various types, they definitely shape their own genre. Karl Jonas Windqvist - the founder and artistic director of the whole project, was very kind in answering some exciting questions about the played song, the entire project, the vision and other things.

Karl Jonas Windqvist - the founder and artistic director of the whole project, was very kind in answering some exciting questions about the title track song, the entire project, the vision and other things.

Karl Jonas Windqvist
The album has such a positive and optimistic vibe that I just can't stop playing it during recent times. It sounds like one big boundlessly free jam inspired by the positive energy that life can bring us. Highly infectious.
Ousmane Ba

Can you tell us a little bit about how the project Wau Wau Collectif and the album came together ?

I came to Senegal in 2018. The Swedish Cultural Arts had this new Musical residency exchange grant to Senegal. And since I have been heavily in love with African music and culture for many years I happened to apply for it. And was chosen to go. So, I did. On my own without having ever been to Africa and not speaking French nor their language wolof. So, I arrived there as a child not knowing anything about anything and could not express myself that well and not understand much either. But I was prepared for this. I wanted the challenge and the experience to be lost and In need of people…

So, the cultural exchange between Sweden and Senegal was for a stay at this great hotel/cultural hub called sobobade in.a town called Toubab Dialaw, four miles from Dakar. And there are moments and scenes from this 3-months trip enough to fill a book. I found close friends there. Every night I ended up jamming with the local musicians. And I wrote some new music and time just flew. And then I just stood at the small airport in the middle of the night. Prepared to go home to Sweden. Feeling sad. All of a sudden a voice called out..The Air France pilots went out on strike. And all flights were cancelled. I went back to Sobobade. And got me a extra week thanks to the pilots. And the musicians there and me quickly decided that now was the time to do something more than just jamming…

We went to the local musician Arouna Kane’s place. He had some studio equipments laying around. We gathered musicians and just started to create music together. We stayed up all nights and really found some special together. I had only brought this electric harp like ,small toy instrument with me: omnichord…so, I did some songs on that which along with the Senegalese musicians got this surreal and lovely atmosphere. We were five-six persons all the way playing these nights. Like this was our secret. And when I finally left for Sweden I left the recordings in Toubab Dialaw. Because the band wanted to continue and then send me…

And time went by. I recieved this and that through WhatsApp. New songs, overdubs…And we learned that we wanted to make this music in our special way..where my vision blended with theirs. So, I started to record overdubs in Sweden as well…And the project grew and grew. I met a Senegalese taxi driver in Stockholm who knew the people I met in Toubab Dialaw. I invited him and his kids to the studio and so the track ”Mouhamodou Lo and his children” came alive. 

Yaral Sa Doom Album Cover

How did you find out about the Senegalese music scene and what drew your attention to start the whole project ?

Since five years back I host an eclectic show on Swedish National Radio called ”Kalejdoskop” where we play music from all corners of the world, mixing them all into each other… So, searching for music have been a big part of my life. And I’ve been a long time fan of older Senegalese bands like star band de Dakar, orchestra baobab and many more.

But it was this cassette/bootleg album called ”ndaxami” with Super Jamono De Dakar from 1980 that had me totally obsessed for a long time. I think I had a vague dream that I could meet up with the vocalist/leaders from that album (Ismael Lo and Omar Pend) and talk them into me reissuing that album. Now, I never met them when in Senegal and I’ve since learned that it can be so difficult to locate who owns the rights to old material like that…But that album was like my companion going to Senegal. 

And when arriving in Senegal and on one of the first days I heard someone late at night playing a song from this album on his mobile phone - I knew I was right on track. Also, the great kora master Lamine Cissokho played a big part of my trip. He is now living in the south of Sweden and I have released two albums with him. I knew that he would be on a solo tour in Senegal at the same time I was there, so that was comforting to know and he gave me recommendations and we travelled some together...

Arouna Kane

How did you develop the different songs with so many musicians and artists involved - can you share with us some of your creative process ?

 When we decided to record we gathered in this house. Arouna would play bass guitar, I would play the omnichord keyboard, Ousmane on the fula flute and my drum teacher Ndongo play the percussions and drums. We just clicked together and stayed up all nights improvising and jamming. Some sketches I had matured into real songs (”Salamaleikoum” and ”Yaral sa doom II”) just on spot.

But when I went back to Sweden the project grew. My wau wau gang kept sending me overdubs, alternative versions, new songs etc. And I started to do the same. This would turn into chaos if no one would take charge and lead the process. I knew what I wanted with the album. To build the songs from Senegal and have most of the songs in wolof, but to mix it up with some Swedish musicians and to lead the music in directions that felt creative, exciting and unpredictable. So with the blessing from my many involved musicians and members I had total freedom in the mixing process…I left songs out, kept only what made my heart beat faster etc.  Also this could not have been finished without what’s app.  That’s how the senegelase gang sent me material for a year after I got back home. 

Jango Diabate

What is the story behind the song „Yaral Se Doom“ which means „Educate The Young“  that is featured in the podcast and what role does the education of young people play within the project ?

We were surrounded by kids all the time in Senegal. And we all feel for them. Because we were once like them. And still have the kid in us…The world is an unfair and hard world for some kids and to always strive for a more equal world was a thing we discussed a lot. I also had two young sons back at home in Sweden at the time. And since there was hardly any wi-fi connection I had not much contact with them at the time. I did some recording sessions with a young school class (some of it will end up on the next Wau Wau Collectif album) and I felt so strongly for all the kids. Hoping that they will find their way…. On the album ”ndaxami” mentioned above there is this amazing track called ”yaral sa doom”. 

I kept asking people about the lyrics to that song. And when I learned that it meant ”educate the young” I just knew that I wanted to make a tribute/celebration to that song and it’s meaning. So, before we started our recording sessions I had decided that the whole project would be called ”yaral sa doom”.  And then when we had recorded ”yaral sa doom II” I had some really great rhythm tracks laying around and I just knew that I had to ask the poet/wise man/flutist Djiby Ly to sing on it. Because he is deeply involved in youth culture and kids education in Senegal. So I told him about the title and I asked him to provide vocals for the instrumental track. And he nailed it directly. 

Ndongo Faye
Djiby Ly

Can you share with us three artists / albums that you listen to or that have inspired you lately ?

Francis Bebey - this legendary artist from Cameroon was ahead of his time. And his albums are so unique. There are two great compilations that the French label Born Bad have some years ago which are a great way to start to discover the beauty of Bebey’s music. But I know there are much hard to find material still waiting for rereleases. 

Julien Jacob - this Benin-born artist is still much too under-appreciated. He sings in his own made up language and make highly original music. I know he has a new album waiting to be released that is just amazing. 

Lamine Cissokho - I have released two albums with this great Senegalese kora master (now living in Sweden). The first we released was ”kora +1” where he met another musician for every track. And the second one was ”new continents” which he made with the Indian steel guitar master Manish Pingle. Both these albums are truly exceptional, I think. And Lamine have so many ideas and projects up his sleeve. Now and then he sends me material and it floors me everytime. 

Babacar Diol