(Courtesy photo/Cheikh Ndoye)
(Courtesy photo/Cheikh Ndoye)

Cheikh Ndoye spends much of his time either in the studio or on tour in exotic locales around the world. He hasn’t been on the road, but for the past three months, he said he’s been in his homeland of Senegal, which he explains “is very rich culturally and rhythmically with … so many different genres of music.”

The internationally acclaimed bassist, arranger and composer said these trips fuel his music and writing,and play a critical and unmistakable role in what he eventually produces.

“Concepts, material, instrumentalization – all associate composition with culture. Cultural influences and other influences come before harmony,” he told The Washington Informer in an interview days before his performances on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. “I was in Senegal and Mauritania in far villages. It inspires me to see other musicians there and around the world and hear their melodies. Everyone has a story rhythmically and melodically.”

“It’s overwhelming to see so many musicians out there. Their music goes in so many different styles. I’m attracted to musicians who go anywhere. That’s what you see when you go on tour. It’s truly one of the most gratifying aspects of the music.”

Ndoye said one musician who really stands out is Weedie Braimah, a percussion player.

“He is perhaps one of the best djembe players in the world. We’re a part of the Hands of Time Band,” said Ndoye, an accomplished musician whose music reflects a powerful and vibrant fusion of jazz and World Music influences arising from his West African heritage and background and his love for all types of music, especially classic and contemporary American jazz. “That is music every musician should check out. His music is moving me. It’s like a mix of everything going in every direction.”

Ndoye said he visited Cuba for the first-time last summer and plans to go back in March.

“Cuba was amazing, man. I honestly believe that the talent there is exceptional,” he said. “A lot of stuff I learned with the Cubans. I’m African but the connection is definitely there. There are a lot of similarities in the way we play. They combine African and Classical – their piano players – it’s some really amazing music.”

Ndoye has been a fulltime musician for almost 10 years. He said he listens to John Coltrane, classical music and “all good music.” He considers Baaba Maal and Salif Keita his heroes. Music aficionados have described Ndoye as a once in a generation artist “that in all respects seems to be ahead of his time. The depth of this kind of artistry on every level is more than evident on (his) debut release,” and he “seemingly has reached even greater heights as of late by collaborating with such world renowned artist as Baaba Maal, breaking incredible ground musically at such a young age.”

As a youngster, Ndoye played the piano and was attracted to many Jazz greats. His love for Jazz led him to deep investigation of this genre. He recalls that after listening to Weather Report‘s 8:30 album, he was so captivated by Jaco Pastorius’ melodic and harmonic developments that he immediately fell in love with the bass guitar.

Ndoye has played and recorded with artists such as Sirunyan, Russell Ferrante, Karen Briggs, Dave Weckl, Eric Marienthal, Lao Tizer, Dean Brown, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, and Leni Stern, several of whom appear on his first CD, an album entitled “a Child’s Tale.”

His colleagues, mentors and influences are a Who’s Who of music and are master craftsmen and women. They include Maal, himself Senegalese and an acoustic guitarist, singer and percussionist, who is well known in Africa and abroad and considered one of Senegal’s most famous musicians. He has released several albums on major and independent labels. He is active social and politically. He has worked as a youth emissary with the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), is a global ambassador with Oxfam and is also the United Nations Millennium Development Goal’s Envoy for Africa.

His regular drummer Rafael Pineda is a Cuban Grammy-winning musician who Ndoye said has played with him for several years.

Ndoye said Blues Alley’s patrons will be treated to a special pair of performances.

“I’m kinda looking forward to the show. There’s going to be very interesting material,” he said with a chuckle. “Arshak Sirunyan is a pianist from Armenia. He is a genius with a very unique style. I co-produced his latest album. It’s really a great album. Interestingly enough, our drummer will be DeCarlos Davis. I wanted Dennis Chambers to play but he was moving and recommended DeCarlos.”
“We’ll play music from old albums and my latest album. The drummers will do some interesting stuff, interesting samples.”

Ndoye, who grew up in Dakar, Senegal, said he’ll be playing a new instrument he created, a hybrid of an instrument called a Salam and a guitar.

“If you close your eyes, you’ll think I’m playing an upright bass. I call it a Salam bass,” he said.

Cheikh Ndoye & Friends will perform at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20007 on Sun, January 26 at 8PM and 10PM. Tickets cost $25 each.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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