Cheikh Lô is one of the great mavericks of African music. A singer and songwriter-as well
as a distinctive guitarist, percussionist, and drummer-he has personalized and distilled a
variety of influences from West and Central Africa to create a style that is uniquely his
Lô was born in 1955 to Senegalese parents in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso (near the border
with Mali), where he grew up speaking Bambara (language of Mali), Wolof (language of
Senegal), and French. His father was from a long line of marabouts. From an early
age, Lô was only interested in music, running away from school to teach himself guitar and
percussion on borrowed instruments.
At 21, Lô started singing and playing percussion with Orchestra Volta Jazz in Bobo
Dioulasso. The band played a variety of music from Burkina Faso and its neighboring
countries, as well as Cuban and other styles.
In 1981, Lô moved to Dakar, Senegal, where he played drums for the renowned singer Ouza
before joining the house band at the Hotel Savana, drumming and singing an international
repertoire. In 1984, he moved to Paris and worked as a studio session drummer. "I love
Congolese and Cameroonian music," he recalls, "and I absorbed a lot of it during this
period." On his return to Senegal, he found that his (now very long) dreadlocks made him no
longer entirely welcome at the Hotel Savana, so he concentrated on his own music.
Lô's first recording, Doxandeme (Immigrants), was released in 1990,
earning him the Nouveau Talent award in Dakar. Youssou N'Dour first encountered Lô as a
session singer in 1989. On hearing Lô's new songs, N'Dour agreed to produce his next
release, Ne La Thiass. Lô's signature sound-a semi-acoustic, Spanish-tinged take
on the popular mbalax style-was an instant success in Senegal, gaining him a
dedicated local following.
Ne La Thiass was released internationally on World Circuit in 1996, followed
by a debut European tour. In 1997, Lô was named Best Newcomer at the Kora All-Africa
Awards. Ne La Thiass was also released that year in North America on Nonesuch
Records. The following year, Lô toured the US as part of the Africa-Fête lineup that
included Salif Keita and Papa Wemba. In 1999, he received the prestigious Ordre National de
Merite de Léon from the President of Senegal.
Lô's next album, Bambay Gueej (World Circuit, 1999; Nonesuch, 2000),
expanded on his previous work, drawing on sounds from Burkina Faso and Mali (with guest
Oumou Sangare), and incorporating touches of Cuban son and funk. His eclectic
mix was furthered on Lamp Fall (World Circuit, 2005; Nonesuch, 2006) by his
discovery of Brazilian sounds and rhythms, working with acclaimed producer Alê Siqueira in
For the next few years, Lô withdrew from the international stage and immersed himself in
the Dakar scene, playing regularly with his own band; this return home is reflected on his
most recent release, Jamm. His signature blend of semi-acoustic flavors-West and
Central African, Cuban, flamenco-has been distilled into his most mature, focused, yet
diverse statement to date.
-Excerpted from materials provided by World Circuit Music.