New African Production is pleased to announce the rebirth of an African musical legend: Senegalese m’balax pioneers Xalam2 return as Xalam. In the 70s and 80s, Xalam2 (pronounced: halam) established itself as one of Senegal’s most innovative and original bands of their generation, staking out a place alongside such seminal groups as the Star Band, Orchestra Baobab and Etoile de Dakar as one of the great ensemble groups of Senegal’s post-independence Afropop musical explosion. One of the first Senegalese bands to introduce jazz. rock and funk into their sound, Xalam2 helped expand the musical palette of the emerging m’balax sound in the music’s formative years (for the uninitiated, m’balax is the irresistible dance sound of Senegal, a blend of traditional Wolof rhythms and instruments with Latin; Jazz and other imported styles).
By the time the band went on hiatus in the 1990s, Xalam2 were seasoned veterans, who had released seven studio albums (and numerous cassettes), toured the world, played with everyone from Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba to Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Rolling Stones to Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins·not to mention appearing at the 25th anniversary of Woodstock and even scoring a soundtrack for a Disney theme park attraction. Now Xalam returns to North American stages for the first time in decades with a brand new album – Waxati – and a familiar lineup: Henri Guillabert (keyboard), lbrahima Coundoul (lead vocals), Taffa Cisse (percussion & vocal), Abdoulaye Zon (drum), Cheikh Tidiane Tall (guitar), Pape Moussa Babou (bass & vocal).
History of Xalam2:
Xalam began as a group of friends from Dakar, who grew up listening to the sounds of r&b, Latin music and international pop blaring out of cheap transistor radios on the dusty streets of the nation’s capital. The group first came together in 1969, less than a decade after Senegal achieved independence from France in 1960, and took their name from the traditional lute of the Wolof People. Originally known as “African Khalam Orchestra”, the band aspired to be musical ambassadors, grounded in the music of West Africa, but embracing the whole continent and beyond in a borderless, universal society. After a few years of researching the village musical traditions throughout Senegal especially in Wolof, Fulani, Mandingo, and Serer communities – Xalam2’s sound coalesced into a potent mix of jazz, r&b, rock and Afro·Cuban sounds, that remained grounded in the distinctive sound and rhythms of Senegalese djembe, and sawrouba drums. Xalam2 released its debut album, “Daida” in 1975. It’s insistent, danceable mix came just in time for the m’balax explosion in Senegalese music, and the album yielded up hit after hit at home, including “Mbaye Sassu“, “Andando“, “Daida“, “Yumbeye” and “Bere Baxu Gor“, while garnering critical praise internationally.
That same year Xalam2 appeared in Monrovia, at a fundraising concert for the ANC, alongside Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and Bembeya Jazz. This concert marked the first in a long series of international appearances and tours that included a 1979 appearance at Berlin’s Horizonte Festival, the Dakar Jazz Festival in 1981, Paris’ Africa Fete in 1982, an “Hommage a Nelson Mandela” concert in Paris in 1988, multiple tours of Europe, Africa, Japan, Canada and the U.S. Xalam also managed to record four studio albums in this period: Dai’da (1975), Ade (1979), Gorée (1983), Apartheid (1986), as well as a number of cassette-only releases for the Senegalese domestic market, including Africa (1984) and Ndiguël (1987). In an interesting departure, the group also recorded music for the soundtrack of the Epcot African Pavilion videotape for the Disney Corporation in 1981, to be used at Disney’s Epcot Center theme park in the U.S. In 1983 Xalam2 relocated to Paris and became a fixture on the city’s burgeoning world music and international jazz scenes. Unfortunately, this era of creative ferment ended with the death of Prosper Niang in 1988, but the band went on with a slightly tweaked lineup – adding Cheikh Tidiane Tall and Souleymane Faye leaving the band. They recorded another studio album, Xarit, that same year, which yielded the band’s biggest single to date “Keurgui“.
In fact, this period of Xalam2’s career would last deep into the 1990s, and saw some of Xalam2’s biggest successes, including the release of two more studio albums, Gëstú (1990) and Wam Sabindam (1993). The 90s also saw some of Xalam2’s biggest live shows, including a worldwide, 150 date tour that took them from Japan to Canada, and some now-legendary performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Paris’ Africa Fete, an “Hommage à Nelson Mandela” at Paris’ Champ de Mars and finally, in 1994, a coveted slot on the main stage at the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock. In 1995, after over 25 years performing together, Xalam took a hiatus, not reuniting again until a one-off concert in Switzerland in 1999. Since then, the band reunited annually – in 2001 for some Parisian club dates, in 2002 for a European Tour, in 2003 for a French Festival Tour, in 2004 for a French and Spanish tour – then taking another long hiatus to work on other projects. This second interval saw Taffa composing and playing with Jean-Luc Ponty; Brahms with Manu Chao; Cheikh producing, composing and arranging with local musicians in Dakar; Henri producing and arranging, as well as managing the Quai des Arts in St. Louis, Senegal; Baye becoming involved planning events at a music center in Saint Germain en Laye, France while playing with a Jazz trio, Souleymane leading a successful solo career in Dakar. In the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, Xalam staged a small comeback, with concerts in Senegal and Burkina Faso. The reunion tour coincided with the re-release of their album Apartheid on CD and the release of their Live à Montreux album (recorded live in 1991 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival), and a Best of Xalam: From A to Z 2-CD set. Now, in 2015, Xalam releases Waxati, their first new studio album in over 20 years – available internationally on the independent Senegalese label and plans to tour North America in 2016. Don’t miss this historic return of one of Africa’s most important bands.