Cheikh Lo was born in 1955 in a Senegalese family, in the calm, ancient city of Bobo Dioulasso, in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), located in the depths of West Africa. And although his father moved his family to this city in 1953, his parents adhered to their Senegalese roots, hosting numerous guests. “There were a lot of Tukulors among them,” recalls Sheikh Luo. “People from Mali used to travel by, somebody came and went every day, sometimes there were up to thirty people in our house at the same time.” Interest in music was manifested in Sheik Luo from early childhood, he began to play drums, congas, and also sang. His father did not approve of this, but his mother did not approve of this, preferring that he study and become an official, as well as his brothers. Sheikh Lo’s professional career began in Bobo-Dioulasso, when he started playing Cuban and Congolese hits with the band Orchestre Volta Jazz, As well as adaptation to the themes of the folklore of Upper Volta. In 1978, he moved to Senegal and began playing with Ouza, a progressive singer in the style of mbalax, and with the ensemble at the Savana hotel. And again he found himself involved in international diversity. Those years are the heyday of Congolese music, the strengthening of the positions of the Cameroonian style of makossa (makossa) and reggae. Sheikh Luo took everything. In 1985, he picked up his first guitar and started writing songs. Soon there was the first cassette, thanks to which he began to appear on Senegalese television and earned the recognition of the audience. Sheikh Lo began work with musicians from the Ivory Coast (now Côte d'Ivoire) and from France. In 1987 they all went to Paris. The band broke up, but Sheikh Lo remained in Paris, playing over the next few years with various African musicians. Returning in 1990 to Dakar, he released a cassette called “Doxamdeme”, and his career continued in a serious channel. His music began to sound in a new, soft and rhythmic way, with the acoustic elements and the emotional character of Latin music, which went against the clean and tough Mbalax that dominated the Senegalese market. Sheikh Luo is a secret society, which is an integral part of the Sufi brotherhood of the Murids. Just like the movement of the Rastafari and the roots of reggae are full of the spirit of the otherworld, the faith of Sheikh Luo gives his popular songs a transcendental spirituality. “Pray to God as if you die tomorrow, work as if you never die - this is the basis of Muridism, and it is through this that the murids control 80% of Senegal’s economy,” says Sheikh Lo. Another chance to perfect the skill appeared in Sheikh Lo in 1995, when his friend and teacher Yussu N'Dur agreed to record together with him the album “Ne la thyass”. The calm mbalax, the sense of Sheik Lo to Latin and Congolese music, his powerful voice and faith - all this merged into one of the most notable albums of African pop music of that decade. The album “Ne la thyass” was accompanied by international success, thanks to which in 1998 Sheikh Luo was among the participants at the Fete Africaine festival. The album “Bambay Gueej” that followed in 1999 also received recognition for its beauty and originality. In the new millennium, Sheikh Luo entered one of the brightest stars of African music………….
It’s five years since Cheikh Lô’s fourth and final album for the World Circuit label but thankfully little has changed in the Senegalese singer’s rippling Afro-Cuban rhythms. His voice still maintains a gentle caress and his music still has a serpentine funk. But there are fresh, subtle and unexpected nuances here too, as his new Swedish producer Andreas Unge nudges Cheikh in an even more expansively cosmopolitan direction. The opening track, ‘Bamba’, adds plangent piano to the familiar talking drums and riffing horns. ‘Degg Gui’ features a soupçon of tango accordion and a vocal duet with the Brazilian singer Flavia Coelho. ‘Doyal Nanniou’ is a protest song, Cheikh berates African politicians with diva-esque support on the final climactic verses from the mighty, wailing Wassoulou voice of Oumou Sangaré.
‘Gemou Ma Ko’ is a lovely, kora-based lullaby and the title-track has a late-night Afro-jazz funk groove, floating on some haunting Miles Davis-influenced trumpet from Ibrahim Maalouf. Fears that the famously laidback Cheikh might struggle to match his previous work without the drive and energy of producer Nick Gold from World Circuit behind him have proved unfounded. Balbalou is the equal of any of his previous albums – and that is high praise indeed…………by Nigel Williamson………
01. Bamba (3:49) 02. Degg Gui (Album Version) [feat. Flavia Coelho & Fixi] (4:02) 03. Doyal Naniou (feat. Oumou Sanganré) (5:56) 04. Gemou Ma Ko (5:14) 05. Suzanah (2:51) 06. Balbalou (feat. Ibrahim Maalouf) (4:39) 07. Lutax (4:26) 08. Baissons Les Armes (4:04) 09. Leer Gui Fall (6:10)