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Baaba Maal

The sprightly Baaba Maal's unique fusion of traditional African folk music, reggae, blues, and pop has made him a star in his native land. He's one of Africa's most pivotal cultural figures, using his celebrity to bring attention to Africa's countless social problems and send a message of strength, unity, and empowerment to his struggling continent.

Maal's life story is a classic musical rags-to-riches fable. Born into the fisherman's caste, Maal was inspired by the black American and Jamaican music of the '60s and '70s to defy his predetermined social fate and instead move to Dakar to become a musician. There he joined the 70-piece orchestra Asly Fouta and later formed his group Daande Lenol ("Voice of the People"). By the late '80s, Maal began recording albums under his own name and has since amassed more than a dozen releases.

Also known as "The Nightingale" because of his clear, high voice, Maal sings in Pulaar, the language of the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group found in Senegal, Niger, Somalia, Guinea, Mali, and Benin. Maal sees himself as a bridge between Africa and the West and his increasing global popularity provides a testament to the success of that vision.

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