British label World Circuit Records has reissued Cheikh Lô’s very first cassette—Né La Thiass—on vinyl. It’s an original essence produced in 1995 by an inspired Youssou N’Dour in his studio, Xippi à Dakar, with the help of the musicians of Super Etoile.
Cheikh Lô’s radiance, fusions, faith, and golden voice are already there, direct and without artifice, and it’s delivered to us today in all its freshness from the original masters restored by Abbey Roads. Cheikh Lô is one of those fearless innocents: from Burkina-Faso, his travels—no doubt initially —lead him to Paris at the end of the 1980s. He was a studio musician there for two years, first as a drummer then as a guitarist. He was discovered by Papa Wemba and producer Ibrahima Sylla, two catalysts of West African music and its many intersections.
But it was of course in his home country of honest men that the young Lô developed a passion for successful mixes while taking his first steps as a musician aongside the flamboyant Volta Jazz group. With Moustapha Maïga leading and on saxophone, Lô gorged himself on rumba and Congolese soukouss classics, Senegalese mbalax, Mandinka blues, Afro-Reggae beats, and fashionable Cuban songs, hereby forming a taste of what would make up the heart of his music and of Né La Thiass.
In 1995, the wandering entertainer was 40 years old and his adopted home of Senegal finally discovered six elegant songs led by sabar and tama drummers, supported by the Latin orchestrations and the voice of Youssou N’Dour on “Set” and “Guiss Guiss,”enhanced by a Pulaar-style flute on “Boul Di Tagale,” and the vocals embodied by the ever resilient Lô, an altogether outstanding storyteller, on “Né La Thiass.” It was an immediate international success, thanks to the intuition of Nick Gold, the founder and talent-scout at World Circuit Records. This then leading to four records, a Kora Award and later, two world tours with Oumou Sangaré, Ibrahim Maalouf, Flavia Coelho, Fixi, Tony Allen, and even Ernest Ranglin.
Nearly 25 years later, the cassette is becoming vinyl, accompanied by a complete, illustrated liner notes booklet. Neither the cover nor the music has taken on a single wrinkle, and for Cheikh Lô only one or two. Still wearing huge dreadlocks and shimmering patchwork Baye Fall outfits, the musician is pursuing his cosmopolitan explorations with a bonus of a truly beautiful memory from his youth.
Cheikh Lô, Né La Thiass (World Circuit)