Senegal's Orchestra Baobab

Five members of Orchestra Baobab wearing traditional Senegalese clothing play instruments on stage

Formed over 50 years ago in a Dakar, Senegal nightclub, Orchestra Baobab continues to be one of the country’s most popular bands. Club Baobab provided Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab with their namesake, but when the popular spot closed its doors in 1979, the musical group continued to thrive.

The musicians of Orchestra Baobab combine African and Cuban musical influences creating their unique sound. Founding members of the band hail from across West Africa including their musical legacies like Wolof and Maninke into the sound. The music style, Cuban Son, found its way to Senegal with people stowing away on boats leaving Cuba for Africa during the 19th century.

Originally the band consisted of seven members but added more musicians over time. Some families even have multiple generations that have belonged to Orchestra Baobab. Vocalists, saxophonists, percussionists, and guitarists combine their musical talents creating a unique sound. Members incorporate sound from across cultures, including reggae, Portuguese creole, Senegalese folk music, and American jazz.

With the introduction of mbalax – a type of fast-paced pop music – to Senegal in the 1890s, Orchestra Baobab found its popularity waning. In 1987 the group took a break, but as globalization spread and international fans heard Orchestra Boabab for the first time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the band reformed in 2001.

The band received a Grammy nomination in 2002 for their album “Specialist in All Styles.” Orchestra Baobab continues touring internationally and has released over 20 albums spanning five decades.

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