The melodious song of longing, Baaba Maal – In Praise of the female voice

Baaba Maal

Apart from lyrical gratification, what do you get when you fill the Royal Festival Hall in London Southbank with artists like Senegalese superstar and advocate of women’s rights Baaba Maal, Speech Debelle, VV Brown, Eska, Krystle Warren and Annie Flore? You get a powerful evening of inspirational female voices from across three continents aptly title ‘Baaba Maal – In Praise of the Female Voice’.

What else do you get? Longing.

In Brazil they call this type of longing saudade, a term which is hard to translate adequately because it describes a melange of nostalgia and craving for something that is unattainable as it leans towards the past or the future. The Brazilians say that once you’ve visited their country and left you will always have saudade, a truth which I can confirm. In Finland, we also have a similar word, kaiho. It describes a deep emotional yearning and pining for something which most often is unidentified.

Normally during my working day, I occasionally pause. Mostly I break to gaze out of the window observing not only passersby, but also the shape of the clouds or the tree in front of my building, which looks different every time I see it.
Sometimes I pause to call a friend or to go for a quick walk or to dance in front of my mirror.
When I’m out I try to deliberately pause as well. Not stop, just slow my pace, share a smile or strike up a conversation with a stranger.
I take these moments as an exercise in regrouping of my mind, body and soul. And I take them in order to not get caught up in routine and forget to feel.
Music touches on those places in our souls where we can’t forget to feel. It hits us with a cathartic recollection of emotion.

The WOW (women of the world) concert made me long for Africa, but more than long, it made me have saudade and kaiho for Africa because my longing is for an unidentified Africa in the past or in the future.

Krystle Warren

My favourite artist was Krystle Warren. Especially her version of John Lennon’s ‘Woman is the nigger of the world’ was breathtaking.

My least favourite was Speech Debelle. She didn’t really get me going. That is, until she did.
The minus points are only because as she admitted herself she was tired of performing the same songs from her old album and I thought that was obvious because when she did ‘Elephant in the living room’, a taster from her new album, feet were suddenly stomping like a room filled with elephants and I fell in love with her all over again.

Longing. Saudade. Kaiho.

Make of that what you will but when you tune in, pump the volume up ~

What are your thoughts, do you think it’s healthy to long?

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  • POTO

    Thought about ‘April in Paris’ by Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. It’s a song that reminds me a lot of spring unfolding slowly and longing for it… I love the pace of it though, springtime. Also a gem.

    Baaba Maal’s vibe actually reminds me a lot of the Treacherous Three, this really funky group. They wrote this song New Rap Language. :) All positive energy.

    • MsAfropolitan

      ‘I never knew my heart could sing’ Oh Billie knows all about longing.

      No heard of treacherous three, will look up

      Thanks for continued support, your suggestions are always intriguing.

      • POTO

        Well, there is actually this other South African group that when I heard them, blew me away. I really wanted to share it with somebody. What do you think? Is called, Mambazo, by Ladysmith Black Mambazo!

        Thanks for those songs earlier. Krystle Warren is truly something else. Love your creative spirit!

  • Z.

    ah, nostalgia…my sweetest indulgence. I love the word and concept of saudade- I have not yet been to Brazil, but it does often come across a lot in writing translated from Portuguese and in Fado music of course!

    I really feel a lot of saudade/kaiho when listening to Baaba Maal- for me it comes from the fact that he is from the Futa Tooro, the Senegal river area separating Mauritania and Senegal where my Halpulaaren father/his family come from… it evokes a lot of yearning around that in me. he will be performing at WOMAD in Abu Dhabi next week and I can’t wait to see him with my papa at my side!

    but in response to your question, yes I think it is healthy (and necessary) to long. it sort of transcends time/space and I think in some way it enhances the moment you are in.