Albums by Cheikh Lô are rare enough to make them seem like events rather than mere recorded releases and Jamm—his fourth in 15 years—is a characteristically lovely set full of subtle rhythms and beguiling melodies. —Songlines (UK)
Senegalese Sufi musician Cheikh Lô’s first album in five years, Jamm, was released in North America June 7 on Word Circuit/Nonesuch Records. The record received critical praise in the UK and Europe when it was released there last year, with Uncut calling it the “African album of the year,” and the Guardian saying, “Cheikh Lô is back with an album that reconfirms his position as one of the finest, one of the most soulful singers in West Africa.” In a four-star review, Q called Jamm “true global music to make anyone feel better.”
On Jamm, which means “peace” in Wolof, Lô’s mbalax rhythms and signature blend of semi-acoustic flavors—West and Central African, funk, Cuban, flamenco—support his husky vocals, sung in four different languages (English, Wolof, French, and Jula, a dialect of Bambara spoken in Burkina Faso).
For all its diversity, Jamm is rooted firmly in Lô’s own backyard, built around simple demos recorded with GarageBand software at the house of his friend and bass player Thierno Sarr. Lô’s lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion have been augmented with additional electric guitar, drums, bass, sax, and Senegalese percussion from members of his regular band. In London, further touches were added by his old friends Tony Allen (drums) and Pee Wee Ellis (sax).
Growing up with Senegalese parents in Burkina Faso near the border of Mali during the 1950s, Cheikh Lô played the musical genres of the time, including Cuban and Congolese styles. He gave his first performances as a young man in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina’s creative capital and hotbed of musical activity, and later moved to Dakar. But it was not until he made his way to Paris in 1985 that he began to build the relationships that would make up his unique musical community.
Since his first internationally distributed record, the Youssou N’Dour–produced Né La Thiass (1996), Cheikh Lô has received increasing acclaim worldwide. His last album, Lamp Fall, was highly praised; on NPR’s All Things Considered, African music expert Banning Eyre said Lô “proves himself one of the most dynamic creators in today’s African music” and the Associated Press called the record “a globe-hopping aural adventure.”