Baaba Maal performs the title track from his latest album, Television
Eight years since his last studio album, Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal is back with a new record, Television.
The multi-lingual album blends electronic dance elements with Maal's gently plucked guitar and traditional West African style.
Born in the small fishing town of Podor, on the Senegal River, he belonged to a caste traditionally restricted to working as fishermen and field workers.
But he was encouraged to explore music by his mother and his lifelong friend, the blind griot (hereditary musician) Mansour Seck.
Before his recent performance on Later... With Jools Holland, Maal sat down to talk to the BBC about his inspirations, and how music can be a force for change.
It's been eight years since you last released an album. Why has it been so long?
I took my time to write the songs for this album, starting out in Philadelphia and then back in Senegal.
But at the same time I was working on something really important for me in Senegal, which was putting on a festival called "The Blues Of The River" (Les Blues du Fleuve) which included the participation of people from my hometown, the local villages around me and my community.
This December will be the fourth festival, and it gives a lot of traditional musicians the opportunity to meet very famous musicians or people who can give them a chance to become well-known.
Do you play at the event?
They ask me to play sometimes, but not much! I'm just a promoter. All the musicians come to be connected with each other, and with (Senegal's neighbour) The Gambia.
A lot of collaborations have happened after all these years.
You've become something of a serial collaborator yourself recently, working with Damon Albarn's Africa Express project. How did you find working with western musicians?
It was very helpful for African musicians to have the opportunity to play with people who didn't know about them. When I jumped on stage with Franz Ferdinand, for example, it helped them discover something about my music and it made me discover what they do, as well.
Just buying the records and CDs is not enough.
The musician has worked with Radiohead producer John Leckie
The music industry can be quite a closed shop, can't it?
Yes, and Africa Express is not just about the music, it's also about the business. We help younger musicians - or even older musicians who never had a chance - to make a break.
When Africa Express first arrived in Mali, and travelled again to Kinshasa, and this year to Nigeria, it was exceptional because people could approach these big names and just talk with them.
And this is something which is really missing in Africa. We have a lot of talent, but it's not easy for them to understand the business. We have some local markets, and they make their cassettes and promote them and market their artists, but to understand how it works in a global field will really help the next generation.
Did you struggle with that when you started? How did you become an international artist?
It was because I was very curious, thank God. I always wanted to know what was going on and how things work. And I think the fact that I took school also helped, because I wanted to travel and discover the world.
The title track of your new album is about the impact of television on African communities. How much do you think it is a negative influence?
I just think that the people who have the power over television in Africa must be very careful about how they're going to use it.
Africans need to make an effort to examine their problems - conflicts and poverty - and television has the opportunity to give people information and do some good. For me, sometimes, it's the information that is missing.
Is there a danger that Western music and channels like MTV will wipe out traditional music now that satellite television is becoming more prevalent in Africa?
That is very dangerous. People can use TV for commercial reasons - which is very good because it pushes business - but at the same time we need the education.
In my country, the government channel broadcasts in African languages, and they promote the Senegalese music. And it helps. You have to put culture at the front.
There is a huge mix of languages on the album. How do you decide which language or dialect to write a particular lyric in?
It depends on where the message is heading. For example, on the song Internationale, in the first part I am singing in Fonyi, my language, because I am talking to my community and saying to them "Africa can make it". And after I've said that, I turn to the world and talk in French, saying "don't let us get left behind".
The record is very eclectic. Would you call yourself a global artist, absorbing influences from everywhere you've travelled to and bringing them back to Africa?
Television features contributions from cult New York band Brazilian Girls
Yes, you can say that. I used to promote myself as an African musician who tried to play just African music. Now I can say it's really important for us to prove we can share our songs - bits of melody, rhythms and artists.
I imagine some traditionalists would prefer you not to do that.
Oh no. I think it's the aspiration of Africa to be seen as an international place. Music, sport and culture can be the links that help us integrate the open market.
The record will still be categorised as world music in the UK. How do you feel about that label?
I don't like this term, "world music". I don't want it to be categorised as world music.
African elements are still in this album - the talking drum, the djembe, even my way of singing. But they can fit really well with all the electronic sounds I have on the album.
You have been quite politically active, with roles in Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign and your work for the UN. How do you reconcile these activities with your music?
They go together. For example, at the festival I was talking about, we organised a lot of conferences, lectures and meetings to talk about education. We would talk at the concerts about the millennium goals.
And this is the meaning of music in Africa. When you are very famous and you play good music, people ask "what are you talking about?" In that way, music can educate people.
Is there a particular lyric that encapsulates what you would like to say to Africa at the minute?
Yes, in A Song For Women I quote an old proverb, that says women should stay in the house. Then I say, "that's true, it always has been true, that's the power of women in the family - but at the same time you need them in politics, in culture, in economy".
To fight against poverty, we need everyone. We need religious leaders, we need political leaders, we need women, we need everyone. It's a global thing. We have to use women's power - and men have to give them the opportunity to do it.
Television is out now on Palm, and Baaba Maal will play the Meltdown Festival on Monday, 15 June. He was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Mark Savage.
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