El Hadj N'Diaye

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 13 12:40:43 MST 2002

RootsWorld Bulletin #190

El Hadj N'Diaye 
World Village

This is the first international release for the multitalented El Hadj
N'Diaye. The Senegalese guitarist is also an actor and social activist. His
acting credits include parts in classic films by noted novelist/director
Ousmane Sembène ("Camp de Thiaroye" and "Guelwar"), significant for their
raw social commentary. More than just a pretty face, though, N'Diaye is
currently the arts director for the non -governmental organization
Environment, Development, and Action (ENDA). So it's not surprising that
his music reflects his progressive consciousness.

It also breaks boundaries. N'Diaye's music is not formulaic mbalax. Though
most songs are sung almost exclusively in Wolof, the music is light and
delicate, and bears a Latin flair. Take the instrumental "Sama Guitare"
("My Guitar"), for instance, which begins with a Spanish-tinged guitar
line, joined by N'Diaye's plaintive ode to his guitar (Alain Renaud adds
his as well). The song recalls the fabled work of Mande guitarists like
Baaba Maal's favorite axman Mansour Seck, or Guinean Manfila Kante. Xel
contains a good number of acoustic arrangements, but the electric ones are
not in any way inferior.

The first cut, "Xel" ("Reason"), begins with a moderately distorted lick,
and as vocals, emphatic but sparse bass, and sprinkled percussion add in,
it sounds like things will explode from the tension. But "Xel" sets in to
simmer, never boiling over, though talking drums spatter here and there as
the groove bears down. In the same vein, though perhaps more mellow, is
"Mengo" ("Together"), in praise of Nelson Mandela. With the exception of
N'Diaye's vocals, every instrument takes on a percussive quality. Though
the song is not mbalax, it takes that style's peppery rhythm, stripping
away thick instrumentation and leaving the skeleton exposed: the pure
concept of mbalax.

And if you don't want to read the lyrics in the excellent liner notes
(translated into Wolof, French, and English) to understand N'Diaye's social
conscience, have a listen to "Xale Bi" ("This Child"). N'Diaye laments the
fate and suffering of street children, asking us to see it as an
international problem: "Look at this child/ He's coming from Rwanda/ This
other one from Bissau." What's more, it's quite melodic. - Craig Tower

Listen to "Casa di mansa" http://www.rootsworld.com/audio/xel.ram (c)2001
Siggi Musique, used by permission www.siggimusique.com

CD available at cdRoots http://www.cdroots.com/hm-xel.html

Louis Proyect
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