Bak in the 1980s when Youssou N'Dour and Orchestar Baobab emerged a the Senegalese artists whose records meant most to us, there were several other band just below the surface including Super Diamano, who played the Forum and WOMAD, and Xalam, whose album Goree was recorded in the UK for the French label Celluloid but was never released by a UK label. They played a memorable concert at the Royal Festival Hall.
The following tribute to Xalam is written by Jenny Cathcart
THE XALAM LEGEND
The Xalam story began on a tide of optimism and intellectual fervour. The years following Senegalâ€™s Independence on 4th April 1960 were infused with a spirit of black pride, respect for indigenous customs (enracinement) and openness (ouverture) to whatever influences the outside world might bring. The Senegalese teranga welcome was warm and sincere. The tone was set by the nationâ€™s poet president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, founder of the first World Festival of Black Arts held in Dakar in 1966. Aime Cesaire, Duke Ellington, and Langston Hughes, Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey attended the month long celebration of negritude. In the capitalâ€™s nightclubs Aminata Fall was singing her moody blues. Labah Sose, from neighbouring Gambia, was affirming his reputation as the leading salsero. Ghanaian born Dexter Johnson was in residence at Ibra Kasseâ€™s Miami Club. Music stores like Radio Africaine and Disco Star were selling vinyl LPs imported from Europe, Cuba and the USA. A newly emerging bourgeoisie, who had settled in suburban villas at Sicap Amitie, attended Friday night Music Clubs, sharing their love of American soul, R & B and jazz. On Sunday afternoons, the populous of Grand Dakar packed picnic baskets and strolled through the streets of Point E and the residences of Fann on their way to the Corniche seaboard and the beaches at Ouakam, Yoff and Ngor. Life was for living Senegalaisement.
In 1965, the nucleus of the group Xalam, named after the traditional African lute, was created in Dakar by Professor Sakher Thiam, a former minister for Higher Education in the Senegalese government and aspiring guitarist. He was of a generation who listened to â€œJazz Hourâ€