With over 20 albums, Baaba Maal is an icon in African music. Born near the Senegal River in the early 1950s, Maal was raised in a family of fishermen, but decided against joining the generational tradition to pursue music. He made a wise choice because Maal is now one of, if not the, most famous artist in Senegal.
On his latest project, “Television,” the Senegalese musician has come together with a variety of world musicians to draw attention to pressing social issues over a guitar and drums. From environmental protection to womenâ€™s rights, “Television” emphasizes the power of progress through technology.
AfriPOP!: Your newest album, “Television,” is a multilingual and multicultural album. Was that decision more about the music itself, or was your goal to connect to a wider audience?
It was both. When I first thought about doing this kind of album, I told my recording company that I needed to make a connection between myself and other musicians, a connection between what I usually play and what they can bring to my music. I also wanted to bring it back home to people who already connect to me. So that they can experience a different level of music.
AfriPOP!: For this album, your inspiration was television and the power it has to affect change, particularly in Africa. How do you see it as being a powerful tool for change?
I know that most leaders, when they arrive in Africa, the first thing they do is assert control on communication, primarily through television. But lately, I think some people are aware about having their own businesses, so you see more private television. So when the national television says one thing, you can say another. If we ever get the chance to control programming, and to know exactly how to educate people, I think television can be â€“ its not yet â€“ but I think it can be something really positive in Africa. It can be an instrument to give information to people, to fascinate people and still educate them. Africa is about the culture, but its also the colors, and pictures, and movement. All of that goes hand in hand with television.
AfriPOP!: Speaking of color, the music video for your first single is very colorful and vibrant. If you think of the music videos that are currently on television now, especially here in the States, theyâ€™re not really like that. Why did you choose to go in that direction?
I want people to know that we can have access to technology as well, to put in our ideas, culture, and way of thinking. The music is not just to entertain people and get them to dance. At the same time, especially in Africa, they think â€œhow did he make thatâ€ or â€œwhat was he trying to sayâ€. So itâ€™s an opportunity for people to talk. It also lets them know that an African artist can use technology and do something great. I want people to know that technology and education are the key to making change in Africa.
AfriPOP!: Those are definitely some of the messages that comes across in your album. But what else are you trying to get across to people?
Every song on album has a meaning. Television is technology and communication so itâ€™s about education and how we can use television to educate. When you hear â€œA Song for Women,â€ itâ€™s about opening the minds of leaders to support women in Africa and to give them the opportunity to have a voice. Itâ€™s changing things. They say what they need, what they want for their children. Now people are starting to listen to them. Thatâ€™s important, because they too can bring change. In â€œDakar Moon,â€ Iâ€™m talking about something very romantic â€“ the moon and the stars. But itâ€™s also connected to the environment. If we support the fight to protect the environment, all the beauty of Africa can be preserved. Itâ€™s a beautiful continent, but we have to take care of it. Thereâ€™s global warming and people are cutting down the trees. Music is for people to enjoy, but also to convey a message.
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