12 March 1943, Banjul, Gambia
20 September 2007, Dakar, Dakar Department, Dakar, Senegal
Laba Badara Sosseh was a Gambian son and salsa singer and composer.
A griot, Sosseh was born in Bathurst, British Gambia (now Banjul, the Gambia) on 12 March 1943. His family relocated to Dakar because of his father’s work at the airport, and Sosseh engaged Dakar’s musical scene, which was at the time strongly tilted towards son, rumba and other Cuban rhythms. As a founding member of Dakar’s Star Band, he shared the limelight during the late 1960s with several future members of Orchestra Baobab. He also performed with Issa Cissokho’s Vedette band.
In 1972, Sosseh cast his lot with a splinter group, Superstar de Dakar, that was based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The band went through several incarnations, including the Super International Band de Dakar featuring singer Pape Fall, and Liwanza. After recording with Liwanza for local producer Aboudou Lassissi in 1977, Lassissi managed for Sosseh to visit New York City, where he became involved in the fledging salsa scene, and recorded a series of LPs titled “Salsa Africana”, with direction from Cuban sonero Monguito “El Unico”.
Sosseh remained connected to the New York salsa scene for thirty years. He recorded repeatedly with Orquesta Aragón in Paris, and his song “Diamoule Mawo” was covered by Joe Arroyo (as “Yamulemau”, with Arroyo singing in Wolof language by means of a phonetics sheet).
In 1998, Sosseh was tapped by famed Afro-salsa band Africando for their album Baloba! where he sang two tunes: “Ayo Nene” and his signature tune “Aminata”. When Senegal and Cuba normalized relations, Sosseh was part of the “Afro-salseros de Senegal” project, together with Pape Fall, James Gadiaga and Issa Cissokho among others. On their only record, Sosseh sings “El Manisero” and (again) “Aminata”.
Sosseh was also featured in several compilations of Afro-Cuban music, including “Putumayo: Congo to Cuba”.
Sosseh, who fathered 27 children, died 20 September 2007 in Dakar. Colleagues Pape Fall and Cheikh Tidiane Tall announced his death on Senegalese radio.