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The Senegalese maverick is a free spirit, whose musical journey over the years has lead him to soak up styles and cultures from all over the globe.
Cheikh Lô was born in 1955, to Senegalese parents in the small town of Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso not far from the border with Mali, where he grew up speaking Bambara (language of Mali), Wolof (language of Senegal) and French. His father was from a long line of marabouts. From an early age Cheikh Lô was only interested in music, running away from school to teach himself drums and guitar on borrowed instruments.
Cheikh dedicates both his music and his life to Baye Fall, a specifically Senegalese form of Islam and part of the larger Islamic brotherhood of Mouridism. Established by Bamba (Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba M’Becke) at the end of the 19th century, Mouridism emerged from the nationalist struggles between the Senegalese and their French colonisers, and many fabulous stories are told of Bamba’s struggles with the authorities who feared that the rapid spread of Mouridism would inspire armed insurrection. Bamba’s closest disciple Cheikh Ibra Fall (also known as Lamp Fall) established the Baye Fall movement, who take their name from him, and was the first to wear the patchwork clothes and long dreads that are the Baye Fall trademarks. Cheikh Lô’s own marabout Massamba (Maame Massamba N’Diaye) is said to be over 100 years old, and was a disciple of Cheikh Ibra Fall; Cheikh Lô wears his picture in a pendant around his neck.