Poet guests on world music album

Lemn Sissay
Lemn Sissay
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A POET brought up in the borough has lent his voice and words to an African music star with a guest appearance on his new album.

Lemn Sissay, who was fostered by a family in Atherton and spent his teenage years in the local care system, appears on two songs on The Traveller, the latest CD released by Senegalese guitarist and singer Baaba Maal.

Baaba Maal

Baaba Maal

The two contrasting songs are called War and Peace, with Lemn narrating his topical stanzas about war and its depictions in the media and cultural over a thunderous mesh of tribal percussion and reciting his work Let There Be Peace to a gently lilting background of African riffs played on guitar and the lute called a ngoni.

Lemn was invited to work on the project as he and Baaba have had the same manager and he spoke warmly about travelling to London to record, saying he has admired the musician’s work for some time.

Lemn said: “Baaba Maal is a hero of mine, he’s a storyteller through music and he’s musical royalty in west Africa. He was brought up around fishing communities in a very rural environment, and we’ve a lot in common in many ways.

“He’s a great man, and I feel lucky and honoured. I went into the studio and he acted as a conductor, directing the musicians he has played with for years.

“He had a few ideas so we did a few rehearsals and then when we’d got the right vibe we put it down. I’ve had a listen to the finished pieces and I love them.”

The Traveller sees Baaba combine traditional Senegalese music with contemporary electronic influences, describing the album as an attempt to put down his feelings about the planet and his hopes for the future despite its problems.

It is not the first time Lemn has worked in music as he previously was vocalist for the band Secret Society during the years of the acid jazz scene and has appeared on a Leftfield album.

He says poetry and music have always combined well together throughout the history of art.

He said: “Poetry and music have always had a relationship. You’ve got things like Benjamin Britten’s work with Auden’s Night Mail, which was basically a poem with music.

“The film Amy also shows how she was a poet before some of her work got made into lyrics.”

The Traveller, by Baaba Maal, is out now.