Orchestra Baobab’s laid back groove

Orchestra Baobab plays a laid back, Afro-Cuban style, and their show last night at the Barrymore Theatre was almost perfect for a beautiful summer evening. The band from Senegal has nine members: three guitarists, two saxophonists, and four people who spent their evening singing, and taking turns at the three percussion stations.

Orchestra Baobab sings in their native languages (Wolof? Mandinka? and some French) and I’m sure most of us in the audience didn’t have a clue what they were singing about. But that didn’t matter with the easy going groove their music had.

Each song seemed to go on forever as Orchestra Baobab laid down a groove, and kept it going. Between the verses the band would go into lengthy jam sessions, highlighting the musicians’ abilities. The lead guitarist and saxophone player were especially impressive. During one song, the two of them engaged in a delicious musical conversation with each answering the other’s riffs. Even though the songs seemed to go on forever, the music was so good during the two-hour concert (not counting the 15 minute intermission), the evening just flew by for me.

There was one oddity about the show. Throughout the evening audience members near the stage kept handing dollar bills to the band. I have never witnessed tipping at a venue like this before. Sure in a small club, a singer (or band) might have a tip jar, but tipping the band at a theatre-sized venue like the Barrymore? I wondered if this kind of tipping was common where Orchestra Baobab comes from.

I started out this post saying the show was almost perfect for a beautiful summer evening. What would have made it perfect? To hear them outside with a cool summer breeze blowing. I guess the closest we could come last night were the faux stars, twinkling on the theatre ceiling.