Africando is a unique musical group featuring West African singers joined by New York based salsa musicians. Together, the two parts formed a literal Afro Cuban band. The band became a worldwide phenomenon by drawing on the popularity of salsa music in Western Africa as well as its popularity in Latin countries.
The band was formed in 1990 by West African musician and producer Ibrahim Sylla and the Malian singer Boncana Maiga. Prior to forming the band, Ibrahim Sylla was well known for producing a large number of Afro Cuban groups in Senegal, a group of musicians whose music had yet to be documented. Boncana Maiga lived and studied music in Havana, Cuba for a period of ten years. He created the groups Las Maravillas and played with the Fania All Stars. In the 1970’s these two musical visionaries joined together for the first time to form Orchestra Baobab with future Africando members Nicolas Menheim, Medoune Diallo, and Pape Seck, who remained with the band until his death in 1995.
Other early members of Africando included the American Ronnie Baro and the late Gnonnas Pedro. The New York City musicians who joined these singers were Ite Herez, Hector Zarzuela, Pape Pepin, Chino Nunezon, Pablo Nunezon, and Dave Rimelis. Africando’s early work involved salsa classics such as mambos and Cuban sons sung in Wolof, a language found in Senegal, Mauritania, and Gambia. This aspect of the group was unique, as the rest of the salsa musicians in West Africa rarely deviated from singing in Spanish. In addition, songs were sometimes delivered in Spanish, Mandigo, Yoruba, and French, and often utilized instruments popular in West African music.
In 1993 the group would record its first album “Volumes 1: Trovador” in New York City with Boncana Maiga arranging the group’s compositions. The band’s second album, “Volume 2: Tierra Tradicional”, was released just one year later and afforded Africando with a huge success in West Africa, the United States, and throughout many Latin countries. Africando’s preceding albums “Gombo Salsa”, “Baloba”, “Mandali”, “Live”, “Martina”, and “Ketukuba” marked a different period in the history and style of the band and were recorded under the name "the Africando All Stars". The band’s 1998 album “Baloba” was a collection of pre World War II Cuban music and featured guest artists Sekouba Bambino, Shoubou, and Labah Sosseh. Most recently, the band completed a world tour in 2007.
When you start the video below, you can hear some salsa songs which Africando played.