Celtic Connections Make African Dreams Come True
Edinburgh based Senegalese singer Samba Sene’s dreams came true at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections in January. Musician Baaba Maal is a legend in Senegal (and approaching that status elsewhere as well). He has long been a hero to Samba Sene and was his mentor when he was just starting out as a young musician in Senegal. But it’s been over 10 years since they were last in contact and Sene was unsure if his messages to his hero had been received as Baaba Maal’s band is in the middle of a worldwide tour.
He needn’t have worried. Returned to the bosom of his musical family he was invited to join the band onstage, joining in backing vocals and dancing in Maal’s exuberantly visual stage show of colourful African musicians and dancers. Samba and several of Baaba Maal’s band later entertained the late night crowds at the Celtic Connections Festival Club in an unscheduled performance following pleading from the audience, with Sene singing lead vocals for one of four numbers.
He later said: “This was it! It just doesn’t get any better for me!”
Samba Sene was born in Senegal but moved to Scotland seven years ago. He writes his own material and sings in French, English and his native Wolof. His style is strongly influenced by the jazzy grooves of Senegal and particularly by musicians like Baaba Maal (with whom he studied before leaving Senegal) and Salif Keita. He has a broad appeal, from world music fans to audiences who just want to dance to the beats. He is equally at home on a small stage with just his voice and guitar or with a dance floor and a big fat 8-piece band with percussion and horns.
He is also co-organiser of Ndaje: African Connections the popular monthly event at Edinburgh’s Bongo Club, set up to showcase African music and culture and its links with the rest of the world. At the end of February he will be co-ordinating the Senegalese corner at the World Sufi Festival at Glasgow’s SECC.