Artist: Wau Wau Collectif
Location: Toubab Dialao, Senegal and International
It’s finally here, Wau Wau Collectif’s long awaited second album Mariage. Following on from their captivating debut the project had a lot to prove with this next release. Was this a one hit wonder whose draw was their novelty or does the project having staying power?
I am very happy to report that not only have they shown that they aren’t going anywhere but they’ve created another truly unique album. This release just like the debut combines traditional Senegalese music with other international influences; however, the end result is vastly different. The overall inspirations and influences on display here are also vastly different to the previous offering.
The collective hail from Toubab Dialao, Senegal and play a unique and experimental blend of genres. The project has an incredibly interesting story behind it. In 2018, Swedish music archeologist and leftfield musician Karl Jonas Winqvist traveled to Toubab Dialao, Senegal, a small fishing village turned hub of Senegal’s bohemian art scene. Over the next weeks, local musicians, percussionists, poets, and beat makers came together, sketching out ideas and recording free improvisation. Winqvist returned to Sweden, trading recordings back and forth over WhatsApp with Senegal based collaborator and studio engineer Arouna Kane. With over 20 contributing performers from Senegal and Sweden. The end result was the collective’s debut album Yaral Sa Doom. Some of the rhythms on the new album were originally recorded at the same time as the first album and were worked in with new material and collaborations.
The key differences on Mariage that I immediately noticed was the fact that the band had focused less on making a catchy, fun album this time around and gone for a more focused, complex sound that prioritized atmosphere and tone. There was a clear inclusion of more jazz, dub, hip hop and blues elements, as well as spoken word elements. Each contributor was also requested to bring more unique instrumental elements from their own culture to the mix. They even incorporated groups of children to sing a unique take on a children’s rhyme.
Other key differences include a newfound focus on complex political issues and a more defined overall thematic focus. While the previous release was more ethereal in its scope, with a focus on spiritualism and education, this album is more deeply based in the realities of daily life for these musicians and communities.
Music like this is a perfect example of the power of the art form to breakdown boundaries and barriers, not just geographic boundaries, but language, culture, and religion, as well as age and gender. The album acts as a unifier between peoples of both African and Europe and sends a message to the world of the universal nature of music. It also shows that there’s a deeper power behind music, an almost spiritual power, one that reaches something inside of us as humans and allows us to feel what others that we have never met feel when making this music.
While I really enjoyed the album, I think that for me personally I connected more with the project’s debut. That’s in no way a criticism of this release, as I think that there will be many who feel the reverse and find this to be their preferred listen. That’s the great thing about this collective, their releases are so diverse that there’s something for everyone and each person will find elements that really stand out to them. For me there were just more of these elements on the debut than on this offering, however I did find several tracks that really stood out to me.
As far as favorite tracks go, I would have to pick Yay Balma as my top choice, showcasing a fantastic range of varied instrumental work. The song ranges from desert blues through to fiery, powerful jazz elements and fascinating folk elements. The heavy focus on saxophone, the technical yet smooth drum work and the flute elements really bring a lot of overall depth to the track. Nécessaire brings some relaxed folk/reggae/dub elements to the mix and when the songs more unusual elements are paired with the soothing female vocals on the track it makes for a captivating listen. Jarabi has a simple yet fantastic rhythm to it and the vocals on the track are stunning, it makes for a very relaxed listen.
Overall, the album is a very different beast to its predecessor, showing that the project has a bright and varied future ahead of it. I always feel that African music doesn’t get nearly as much exposure as it deserves, so I love projects like this, that showcase just how much variety is on offer. If you appreciate complex and varied music, I highly suggest giving this album a spin.
Listen to and order the album: