CHEIKH IBRA FAM /
DISC/ EDITION / TOUR
SENEGAL / FRANCE
LAETITIA (LABEL/ ADMIN)
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FIRST ALBUM ‘PEACE IN AFRICA’ MARS 2022
AVAILABLE BOOKING 2022 – 2023
With Peace In Africa, his first international album, Senegalese singer and multi-instrumentalist Cheikh Ibra Fam adds new nuances to the spectrum of African world music.
It took a turning point for Cheikh Ibra Fam to realize that he was ready, that the moment had come for him to move forward openly, without any avatar or guidance. After four years with the legendary Orchestra Baobab, a fifty-year-old monument of Senegalese music, and three locally-focused albums under the name Freestyle, which allowed him to gain recognition among his compatriots, the process of maturation had reached its logical conclusion. It was when he was about to live away from Senegal and his native continent, at the end of 2019, that the puzzle pieces suddenly fell into place, in the light of his experience and personal reflection on music.
His first solo album, an Afro-pop project titled Peace In Africa, is the result of this musical catalyst, anchored in Africa while being open to the world, connected to his roots and resolutely contemporary. “Before, I was searching for myself,” confesses the singer, with a sense of relief and satisfaction that reveals his artistic identity quest.
To give life to this project, he wanted to “return to the source.” In neighboring Gambia, he joined his uncle Coly Cissé, “one of the best guitarists in West Africa” who has accompanied numerous international singers. The collaboration proved fruitful: in one week, the foundations of six songs were laid, including Dounde, which tells the story of his stay marked by the encounter with the famous griot Jaliba Kuyateh, nicknamed “The King of Kora” in the English-speaking world.
The richness of the songs gathered on Peace In Africa and the diversity of the genres they belong to reflect both the personality and the baggage of their author, who now resides in the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Programmed beats intersect with the kora (Peace In Africa), brass instruments accompany a guitar inherited from Senegalese folk music (Yolele), a Cape Verdean vibe floats here (Diarabi), while the skank of reggae brings its groove (Diom) to evoke young Africans crossing the seas in search of opportunities in the West. Elsewhere, the artist sings in Bambara, an air from Mali, his mother’s place of origin (Ayitaria). He occasionally switches from Wolof to French in the remix of Cosaan, whose original version was released on his previous album under his name Freestyle.
Cheikh Ibra Fam has embraced Africa, and he knows how to represent it with the sounds and musical colors of his time, those of today. He accomplished this notably with the invaluable assistance of Hakim Abdul-Samad, a former member of the American R&B quartet The Boys, during the crucial mixing stage.
The added value of Peace In Africa is particularly attributed to Cheikh Ibra Fam’s expertise: the 35-year-old spent six years at the Milan Conservatory in Italy, acquiring knowledge and proficiency in multiple instruments.
As a child, he was influenced by the records his mother played in their family home in Dakar: those of Cuba’s Orquesta Aragón or the Dominican artist Johnny Pacheco, a star of Latin music highly popular in West Africa. When he discovered American artist Otis Redding at the age of ten, the impact of soul music was so profound that he listened to nothing else. Later, like others in his generation, he also tuned in to American, French, and Senegalese rap but deliberately chose not to focus too much on any particular artist for fear of being overly influenced. “I want to draw inspiration from everyone and not just one person,” he justifies, while acknowledging that “an artist’s career is like a building: several people contribute to its construction.”
Among those who contributed to Peace In Africa is Cheikh Lô, one of the figures of Senegalese music, with whom Cheikh Ibra Fam shares the fact of belonging to the Baye Fall community. The Franco-Cape Verdean reggae artist Mo’Kalamity also came to share the microphone, while Mamy Kanouté, who has long accompanied Baaba Maal, was in charge of backing vocals. The “fathers” of Orchestra Baobab hold a special place on this list of guests: Thierno Koite, the saxophonist who thought of his young compatriot when a spot in the group became vacant, and of course, Balla Sidibé, a founding member of Baobab for whom he was one of the vocalists.
Through them, during international tours on the biggest stages, Cheikh Ibra Fam gained a confidence he didn’t have before. He also acquired rigor and discipline, thanks to the discreet drumstick taps that Balla Sidibé would give him live for a wrong note or a microphone touched with his hand! The Future is the veteran singer’s final recording, made three days before his passing. Its lyrics evoke life and death. “This song has a soul,” considers Cheikh Ibra Fam, the custodian of this musical testament that validates his legitimacy. An ultimate lesson, before finally taking flight.
Thus, in 2021, the audience witnesses a successful takeoff that reaches its peak with the release of this rich album, Peace In Africa (March 11, 2022 – Soulbeats Music), Cheikh Ibra Fam’s first international solo album, a modern and fresh Afro-pop project for the singer that nevertheless fits seamlessly into the logical and natural progression of his previous works and collaborations.