After an eight-year break, Senegalese recording artist Baaba Maal will release “Television,” his first album of all-new recorded material since 2001’s “Missing You.” Due September 15 on Palm, the album joins Maal with members of New York lounge-pop act Brazilian Girls to create eight songs of world-infused exotica that fuses the African traditions he’s known for with a breezy, downtempo feel.
Maal hooked up with Sabina Sciubba and Didi Gutman through a few mutual friends, and they composed the material together in London. “I said to them that I was very open about whatever they wanted to bring into these songs,” Maal tells Billboard.com. “We stayed in a writing room for three days and did most of the songs together.”
While much of the music is indeed new, some has been kicking around Maal’s repertoire for years. Maal says he’s been playing the songs “Miracle” and “Tindo” for twenty years and just now figured out how he wanted to present them as recordings. “It comes from traditional African music. I played [Tindo] for them and said, ‘This song is beautiful and should be on the album. So let’s work on it.’ ”
Although not everyone is fluent in Maal’s native tongue, Pulaar, the lyrical and musical themes woven throughout “Television” demonstrate the musician’s commitment to global awareness of his continent. “The album is in general about how it is important for me to connect Africa to the rest of the world,” he says, “using the elements that come from the traditions and giving Africa the same language that everyone is talking.” Maal tackles environmental issues on “Dakar Moon,” and poverty and changing familial roles during “A Song For Women.”
Maal has risen over the last several decades as one of the most popular “world musicians”; according to Nielsen SoundScan, his 2001 album “Missing You” has sold 37,000 copies to date. But he hasn’t been absent of releases or high profile collaborations since then. Palm released three compilations of Maal’s music this decade, and Maal has also collaborated on stage with Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and Franz Ferdinand. This May, Maal joined Bono onstage in London during Island Records’ tribute to former label honcho, Chris Blackwell. And just last weekend (July 18), Maal appeared at Radio City Music Hall for the Nelson Mandela Day concert, alongside Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin and Carla Bruni.
The gigs, along with the new album, are all part of Maal’s plan to bring Africa to new audiences, but also to enlighten his own people. “To play music for young African generations — it can be like a bridge to connect them to other music of the world,” he says.
Here is the track list for Baaba Maal’s “Television”:
“A Song For Women”