Comparisons to the great Fela Kuti when any African artist brings that high life jazz sound are hard to resist. While Alune Wade at this juncture is not as politically motivated as Kuti, Alune Wade is a consummate artistic professional who brings his own brand of charismatic band leading credentials. Those credentials were evidently honed as a youngster who witnessed the power of music through his father who conducted his own orchestra in Dakar.
At the age of 17 after he had chosen the bass as his raison d’etre Alune Wade earnt a place in his father’s orchestra. It was a pivotal moment and sealed a musical journey which has seen him perform with significant names like Ismael Lo and release three albums-his debut being Mbolo (2006). That debut was a sublime combination of his training in African rhythms and more contemporary modern jazz influences.
His latest project African Fast Food (2018) is a ten-track soundscape where African vibes, his musical experiences from Paris and jazz collide. The album from a personnel point of view sees Alune Wade connect with names from across the globe like the Cuban drummer Francisco Mela, Malian hip-hop artist Oxmo Puccinno and Madagascan trumpeter Renaud Gensane.
#itchysilk managed to get some time with Alune Wade to talk music.
We know you were born in Dakar. What impact did growing up in Dakar have on you as a person-what are your memories of that childhood?
I grew up in Dakar Senegal, surrounded by music, rhythms, melody from everywhere in the City.
Musically your father was/is a huge influence but explain that a bit more?
Sure my father is the main influence but there were many artists in my family-uncles sisters and more. All day long we listened to different music at home (classical music, jazz, soul, reggae, traditional music, pop. There were many musical influences that I experienced with my family.
There seem to be a rift of sorts regarding your wish to go into music and your mother’s wish that you pushed academia. Why and how did a musical path eventually become your chosen direction?
My mother didn’t want to let me be a musician because she knew about musicians in Africa in the 70’s who were more interested in alcohol and drugs. She was trying to protect me from these addictive behaviours. Eventually she ended up accepting my choice to become a professional musician.
Let’s talk about Senegalese instrumentation and Wolof culture. Explain how music and culture are integral to Senegal.
Wolof is the most spoken language in Senegal. Many of the Senegalese singers use it for the most popular music which is the Mbalakh. It is a style of music which takes its roots from a mixture of traditional music fused with Cuban music of the years 1960-70. It began with orchestras like; The Baobab Orchestra, Rail band de Thies with a more Cuban influence and instruments like congas. With the arrival of orchestras like l’Étoile de Dakar in the late 70s early 80s, artists like Youssou Ndour introduced the sabar a Senegalese percussion or another stringed instrument called Xalam used by singers like Ndiago Mbaye which is a type of singing that draws more in the style of griots. Today this music is the most popular in Senegal.
You toured with the great Ismael Lo. How important has he been to the whole Senegalese music scene?
Touring with Ismael Lo was a fantastic learning experience and opportunity in my career. I was very lucky playing with him in the 90’s and touring all over the world. At the time I was 18 years old and it was very hard for many musicians in Africa to travel at that time. I learned a lot from him.
Explain that period of time with Ismael and how it helped as a foundation to the artist you are now.
I was the youngest in the band, even the youngest Senegalese musician. That was like a Dream to play always on huge stages with one of the greatest African Artists.
How does your latest release African Fast Food differ or indeed build on prior albums?
African Fast-Food is my fourth album in 12 years. I write albums like I write books with each one having its own history with different experiences, specificities, and musicians.
Why the name African Fast Food-why the name and what was the aim of this album?
African Fast-Food is a reflection of our way of life, the different sounds, the smells, the atmosphere and especially the freedom to listen to different music that comes from everywhere.
Who did you work with on the album?
The most wonderful musicians come from all over the world so it has added a real dynamic to the album. Working with names like Mokhtar Samba from Senegal and Brian Landrus from New York has been a wonderful experience.
What are you working on now?
Well my focus is of course promoting the new album African Fast-Food album on international markets, but I am also working with Archie Shepp writing the follow-up album.
For the full album CLICK
Featured and second image courtesy of Mwende Ngao