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f I’ve given the impression that Jamm might be a Senegalese equivalent of a fervent happy-clappy Christian release, this would be entirely wrong. It’s a wonderful mix of African and Cuban styles, mixing mbalax, highlife, Congolese rumba, Afrobeat, and Afro-Cuban swing, with some surpris- ingly Californian-sounding surf guitar. It is, he says, a musical rep- resentation of the multi-coloured clothes he wears all the time, in accordance with Baye Fall custom. In the sleeve notes he writes, “Musically I’m very open to new ideas, new colours… I might be Senegalese but I’m touched by many far-flung corners of Africa and by its different countries and languages. With each new album I try to present music that is in some ways, dare I say it, pan-African. The wealth of Jamm resides in its variety.”


It’s a variety made cohesive by his beautiful voice and the skil- ful weaving of his various musical influences. It’s a natural process for Lô, who was in fact born in Burkina Faso to Senegalese parents and who honed his musical skills by playing with musicians from different backgrounds who sparked his imagination.


“There’s a crossroads between Mali and Senegal and Ghana, a crossroads where you get lots of musicians coming through. The first band I was in (Orchestre Volta Jazz) was just after I learnt my music.” [He picked up guitar as a child.] “We had a singer from Burkina Faso, a singer from Mali, another singer from Guinea, another from the Congo, and a Ghanaian singer too. Because of these different colours of music you start to learn in this environ- ment. It truly gave me the chance to open up musically, and to master lots of different things. Je pourrais même dire que je suis un pan-africaniste (I could even say I’m a pan-African) in terms of everything I learnt there.”


Unlike some other musicians I’ve interviewed, Lô knows exactly how many children he’s got (4), but in his compassionate and expansive way he considers all African kids of similar ages as his own and feels compelled to help them in the most effective way he can, through education. So his songs are a casket for lyrics with a message and he hopes that they will add to the common good. He sings in French and Spanish, Wolof and Jula (a Mande dialect from Burkina Faso) and addresses all kinds of social concerns, the dark- ness of some you’d never guess from the joyfulness of the music.


Among other things, he takes on politics (Sankara), the need


for peace (Jamm), hypocrisy and jealousy (Conia), materialism (the wonderful Warico), the horror of limb trafficking for ritual sacri- fice to which children are especially vulnerable and the need for parents to protect their children as “Your child is the most valu- able thing you have” (Ne Parti Pas), and the difference a positive wish can make (Folly Cagni).


Lô is philosophical without being pedantic. In conversation


it’s clear that his wisdom comes from experience realised through his faith. He’s reached a deep understanding and clarity that provide a confidence and certainty which far from blinding him, free him to question and keep an open mind. He comes across as kind and funny and wise and completely open; some- one for whom self-respect and humility go hand in hand. He does not have one iota of the bigotry so often apparent in those who adhere to a particular faith.


Perhaps it was a belief that things happen when they’re sup- posed to that accounted for the five-year time-lapse between Jamm and his last album, the sparkling Lamp Fall, though when he tells of his relationship with technology, it makes you wonder…


“I try to find the right music for each text I’ve written and afterwards, I know that I have to see if I can add something to these chords or if I should change some things. I do some revi- sions, and once I’ve done some revisions I record a demo. I do it at my little home studio. I’ve got all the equipment at my house but I don’t know how to use it. I’m truly, truly terrible, I bought a com- puter in 2002, so that’s almost ten years I’ve had it in the house and my children and my wife, they’re experts at it, where as I’ve never turned the bloody thing on. I’ve never turned it on, I’ve never turned it off. I’m afraid of touching it. The telephone, I can use, I can send text messages!”


“My bassist (Thierno Sarr) has a studio in his home and he helps me record the demos. Fortunately he’s good with technolo- gy. Nonetheless, I still call an engineer to come to my house some- times because I’m a terrible technician. But I’m learning a little bit, because sometimes I get inspiration and I have to record it straight away otherwise I’ll forget the chords.”


When this happens, Lô is likely to record ideas on his mobile phone and then turn up at Thierno’s, with his guitar and instru-


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