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Baaba Maal

One of the most popular twenty-first-century Senegalese musicians, Baaba Maal brought the music of the Pulaar people to the international stage in the 2018 film Black Panther. Born in 1953 in what was then French West Africa, Maal was encouraged to follow his father into the fishing profession but desired instead to learn how to sing and play music from his family’s griot, Mansour Seck. He studied music in Dakar, where he joined the Asly Fouta orchestra before traveling to Paris on a postgraduate scholarship to study at the École des Beaux-Arts. In Dakar, his understanding of traditional music was fused with American and Western forms including R & B, soul, and jazz. With Seck in Paris, in 1984 Maal recorded Djam Leelii, which was not released until 1989. He returned to Senegal, continued performing with Mansour Seck, and formed the group Daande Lenol, which combined traditional music with pop and reggae. His 1988 effort Wango, released through Mango, exhibited this style and focused it on a series of popular albums through the mid-1990s. In 1989, Maal contributed music for Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, included in the soundtrack’s second volume, Passion—Source. His 1998 effort Nomad Soul became the first record released on Chris Blackwell’s Palm Pictures label and featured production work by Brian Eno, among others. He took a short break from recording—but continued performing—in 2003 after he was appointed a United Nations Youth Emissary. Through the 2000s, Maal was featured by and collaborated with myriad artists from Africa, Europe, and the United States. In 2016, The Traveller, Maal’s eleventh studio album, featured members of Mumford and Sons and the Very Best and led to a UK tour and his headlining of Senegalese festivals. Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson traveled with Maal around Senegal and recorded him, and others, singing. Göransson’s trip was used as research for the Black Panther original score, which featured two songs by Maal—“Wakanda” and “A King’s Sunset.”