Tuesday, 14 October 2008

LABA SOSSEH – ‘Que Se Funan’

Artist: Laba Sosseh Y Su Conjunto
Track: Que Se Funan
Label: N’Dardisc
Catalog#: 45-15
Format: Vinyl, 7”
Country: Senegal
Released: 1960’s (not 100% on the year)
Credits: Written by Laba Sosseh, Produced by L. Fourment

Having only recently discovered the wonders of Laba Sosseh’s work – particularly his collaborations with Dexter Johnson (and Super Star De Dakar) – I wanted to feature some of his music here as Laba Sosseh was an absolute landmark figure in the development of African-Latin music.

John Child (@ Descarga.com) compiled a detailed obituary about Laba Sosseh, some of which I have included here in slightly edited form. Trying to get a good, reliable write up on him is not easy.

Born: Laba Badara Sosseh, 12 March 1943, Bathurst, Gambia, Died: 21 September 2007, Dakar, Senegal.

Laba Sosseh was a Gambian-born singer and composer who was an early pioneer of the tradition of Africans journeying to New York to record with Latin musicians.

The son of a Senegalese father and Gambian mother, Laba was born and raised in Bathurst (renamed Banjul in 1973), the capital of The Gambia, a British colony at the time. Regarded as one of the greatest musical innovators in the Sene–gambia sub-region, he grew up listening to Cuban dance music of the '40s and '50s. Johnny Pacheco was one of his favourites and he became known for his perfect imitation of the Dominican bandleader's style.

From a family of griots (praise singers), he played the sabarr drum at traditional ceremonies and later joined the Foyer Jazz Band, with whom he began singing popular Latin numbers, and African Jazz dance band. In the early '60s Laba accompanied his father, a civil aviation worker, when he was redeployed to Dakar airport in Senegal. There he joined the Star Band de Dakar, founded in 1960 by Ibra Kassé as the house band for his prestigious Miami nightclub to celebrate Senegal's independence. Sidemen included the Nigerian sax player Dexter Johnson, singer Amara Toure and conga drummer Lynx Tall. Besides the Miami nightclub, Laba performed with the band in many clubs in Dakar, Bathurst and throughout the sub-region. In 1964 the Star Band fell out with Kassé and, renaming themselves Super Star de Dakar, relocated to the Etolie nightclub.

He accompanied Super Star to Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, where he took up residence and organised the Super International Band de Dakar, comprising Senegalese and local musicians, at the beginning of the '70s.

Circa. 1977 Sosseh recorded with the Special Liwanza Band, making his debut on Aboudou Lassissi's Ivory Coast-based Sacodis label. Lassissi took Laba to the U.S. where he recorded with some of New York’s finest Latin musicians.

In the early 80’s, Laba made a number of albums in Paris and performed with the Cosmos Band in Benin. In 1998 he sang ‘Afromanicero’ on Cheikh Ibra Fall by El Hadji Faye and Etoile 2000 de Dakar and later joined the ranks of Africando for their fourth album Baloba! In 2001 Laba Sosseh celebrated his 40th anniversary in the salsa africana field.

After a long illness, Laba Sosseh passed away in a private clinic in Dakar on Thursday September 20, 2007 at around 3:00 am local time. Pape Fall and guitarist Cheikh Tidiane Tall announced his death on RTS, Senegal's state-owned media corporation. He was buried at the Muslim cemetery in Yoff, Dakar, and is reportedly survived by 27 children.

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