Music

Sélébéyone Is at the Intersection of Experimental Hip-Hop, Jazz & Wolof

The international 'avant-rap collective' deliver a new album packed with impressive rhymes from Senegal's Gaston Bandimic.

Shrouded in birdsong, Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty opens up “Djibril,” the second track on Sélébéyone’s new album with grave certainty. In French he tells us: "You must close your eyes. Have you closed your eyes? You see points of light. Close them tightly. Each time that you want to see the light, you must close your eyes."

It encapsulates an astounding album in Xaybu: The Unseen that sounds like a spiraling Miles Davis as cosmonaut lost in geometric prisms of Africa. Free jazz in the lost outer dimensions may not be for everyone but this ‘international avant-rap collective’ as they like to call themselves sound less like session musicians polishing off their licks when Senegalese star, Gaston Bandimic, is cutting loose at the heart of it all.

Down wormholes of terror and abject confusion this group’s best moments are when they shoot for spiritually and mysticism through sonic chaos. Saxophonists Steve Lehman of Los Angeles and Maciek Lasserre of Paris ride off the energy that pours out of Bandimic. He delivers in Wolof as if it were for the last time.

That he and Lasserre are both Sufi Muslims, makes the record take on a shape of its own and attempts to reveal the connection they have with the unknown. When I manage to track him down he is in Lyon with his family. A hip-hop star back in Africa, he appears on this transatlantic album that sounds at times like a bad dream in an 80s movie. What is the deal here?

Bandimic describes making music as making new universes, citing “the symbiosis of cultures and civilizations” and how “jazz is not symmetrical, it’s another level — just as the spirit is not palpable. It is abstract”.

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