Baaba Maal at the SouthBank Centre – An Explosive Concert Creating Unity and Connection.

By Flora Kambona

Witnessing Baaba Maal perform at the Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre in London was an enjoyable form of escapism for all in the auditorium. The Grace Jones Summer Meltdown hosted musical legend Baaba Maal on the 18th June 2022. It was his first performance after 13 years and Maal moved the audience to their feet, with his hypnotising ode to Africa.

Collaborating with musicians from all over the world such as Hans Zimmer and Mumford and Sons; Maal is the creator and king of ‘World Music’- the festival and the genre. His own discography of samples and mixes, fuse artists together into one harmonious sound.

Performing classic songs such as ‘Wakanda’, featured in the 2018 Black Panther film, Baaba Maal transported the audience to rural, beautiful Senegal. He achieved this by leading a full band on stage made up of: two bassists, a group of brass players and a plethora of lively percussionists. A conversation between drums seemed to be taking place as a result of the impromptu and spontaneous style. 

This style carried high energy, high intensity and vigour. Dressed in traditional Fulani robes, Maal and his band instantly took charge of the venue with a joyful leap onto the stage. Starting off with his more up beat tracks such as African Woman. There was no need for a warm-up to the triumphant music. During the breaks, Maal took time to address the audience about his inspiration for the songs. He outlined his concerns, written about in his songs. The lack of education, food security and sense of community. 

This meaningful tone progressed through to the next part of his set which included more melodic songs, depicting his semi-nomadic life in Senegal. Long, winding instrumentals that extended up to 9 or 10 minutes. He guided audiences through rich visions of forests. Starry melodies slowed down the pace. Maal’s soulful timbre created a comfortable atmosphere. 

This all upended when two traditional Sabar dancers disrupted the peace with their fierce movements. Encouraged by the audience, the dancers brought an explosive enthusiasm in the auditorium. 

Led by Maal, the audience clapped, stomped to the beat. He insisted that they become part of the concert and naturally aligned them with the percussion on stage. With everyone dancing and singing in unison; it became clear how Maal achieved his legendary status. He always creates a space for unity and connection.

Similar to his own songs, the crowd was made up of people from diverse cultures. Women joined the stage to sing, dance and weave baskets creating a family feel to the performance. Baaba Maal’s concert was like listening to an old friend sharing personal stories of his travels around the globe.

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