Orchestra Baobab are reeling from the loss of one of their founder members. The singer and timbales player Balla Sidibé, whose resonant, expressive voice was one of the most emblematic features of this veteran orchestra passed away in Dakar, Senegal on July 29, aged 78. Only the day before, Balla had been in fine form, rehearsing new material with the band, in preparation for their 50th anniversary. (Plans for this event have been postponed because of COVID to 2021, when Baobab will begin touring the anniversary concerts hopefully in February or March).
Balla wrote or arranged some of Baobab's biggest hits, including On Verra Ça, Sutukum, and most recently Fayinkunko, pieces drawn from the Mandinka griot traditions of his native Casamance in southern Senegal. But he was much more than justa lead singer. His pure tenor vocals and deep groove on timbales were the glue that held together Baobab's prodigiously talented musicians, who came from diverse cultural backgrounds in Senegal and beyond.
Read the full obituary of Balla Sidibé, written by Lucy Duran: