Home Music Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom

Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom

Nothing under the Sahel Sounds label has ever encapsulated the vast sense of scale that Wau Wau Collectif has captured on Yaral Sa Doom. The project itself is a collaborative effort between more than 20 artists hailing from both Senegal and Sweden, with Karl Jonas Winquist spearheading the Swedish team of musicians while Arouna Kane handles the Senegalese artists’ largely improvisational recordings.

On its face, the idea of Wau Wau Collectif sounds like it could land on the endless list of white artists partaking in cultural tourism, dipping their toes in a genre foreign to their audience, only to drop the act once they’ve garnered the social cred they seek. After listening to Yaral Sa Doom, however, it becomes clear how instrumental every artist’s contribution was regardless of which side they were coming from, resulting in one of the most ambitious visions in the music scene today.

Yaral Sa Doom is, above all else, a product of love. The album’s title translates to something along the lines of “educate the young,” with the music reinforcing this sentiment by capturing and inspiring the imaginative wonder of a bright-eyed child. The artists involved achieve this through a blend of traditional Senegalese instrumentation and flairs of electronic production, along with the more universal guitars, snares and bass as backing.

From the title tracks opening seconds, the vision is apparent. Airy synths sail in the background as poet Djiby Ly welcomes us with peaceful spoken word. Twittering flutes, light percussion and a groovy bassline enter the mix as the song swells into an uplifting climax. Yaral Sa Doom is a hazy memory of the childhood we presume we lived through, constructing a semitransparent apparition of what we refer to as “back then,” when everything was new and the world was ours to discover. The memories aren’t completely tangible or concrete, but all we know is that they were some of the most pleasant moments of our lives, even if the world wasn’t as sunny and perfect as we recall.

“Mouhamodou Lo and His Children” epitomizes the album’s ethos as Lo’s weathered baritone vocals contrast against the children gleefully repeating his words back to him. The light drums and lazy guitar are enveloped in a fuzzy ambience that evokes the setting of Lo and his children alone in their home, sharing intimate moments together that will eventually turn into lifelong memories. This is accentuated by electronic keys descending and ascending back and forth across the track, supplementing what was already an endearing moment with a whimsical edge.

Lead single “Salamaleikoum” serves as a companion piece to “Mouhamodou,” manifesting itself as the overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the best days of our childhood. If “Mouhamodou” plays out the real-life event of a parent imparting their wisdom upon their children, “Salamaleikoum” emulates the feeling of recalling that memory. I could only imagine this is what it might sound like if you recorded the brain waves of someone watching old home movies and somehow synthesized them into a musical composition. In other words, it’s pure and unadulterated joy, with just a hint of longing for the past. The instrumental is abstract and faintly discordant at times, but never aimless. Dreamlike backing vocals lend themselves to the soothing aesthetic, gently leading you through one of the best moments on the album.

While most of Yaral Sa Doom is unabashedly happy, Wau Wau Collectif isn’t afraid to lean into their serious side. “Gouné Yi” is a downtempo track driven by devastating lead vocals and harmonizing woodwinds. Although this represents a major tonal shift, any tension built by this point dissipates immediately on the bouncy and off-kilter “Yaral Sa Doom II,” which leaves you scratching your head at what inspired such a stark detour, but at the same time not entirely upset considering the quality of said detour.

“Mame Cheikh Sidy Anta Mba” features a jarring horn section that would fit better on a long-lost Neutral Milk Hotel b-side if it weren’t for the supporting African instrumental. Ultimately, this odd decision doesn’t completely ruin the moment, but you have to wonder how it came about in the creative process.

These criticisms might sound bigger than they actually are, because at the end of the day, they feel so insignificant when considering the stunning work that Wau Wau Collectif has done on Yaral Sa Doom. The wholehearted desire to uplift spirits is something that has become rare in music as of late, but these compositions are endlessly radiant with zero compromises. There’s no catch, no dark underbelly. Yaral Sa Doom is an unyielding expression of hope for a brighter future. It appears that there are already plans for a Yaral Sa Doom 2, but even if this were to sit as a standalone album, it would be hard to complain too much with what they have left us.

Every artist contributes to one of the most ambitious visions in the music scene today.
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