Omar Pene

Vocalist and composer Omar Pene has played a pivotal role in the evolution of Senegal's music. One of the few Senegalese musicians to rival Youssou N'Dour, Pene and his band Super Diamano have influenced the music of their homeland for more than a quarter of a century. While their roots remain in the traditional mbalax rhythms of Senegal, Pene and Super Diamano blend a global range of influences, including reggae and jazz, into their turbo-charged dance music. With their songs reflecting on such issues as unemployment and modern education, Pene and Super Diamano continue to be what the Rough Guide: World Music called "the people's band of Dakar's proletarian suburbs."

Raised in Dakar's working class section, Derkle, Pene has been singing most of his life. Joining his first band, Cad, in 1975, he remained with the group for a few months. Together with bandmates Cheikh Diagne, Bassirou Diagne, and Bazlo Diagne, he joined with members of Tropical Jazz De Dakar, including guitar and harmonica player and vocalist Ismael Lo, to form Super Diamano. Initially tied to Senegal's traditional music, the group moved towards a harder-edged electric sound with the addition of jazz fusion-influenced keyboardist Adama Faye.

Pene has guided Super Diamano through numerous personnel changes. When Lo left to embark on a solo career in the mid-'80s, he was replaced by the equally effective Mamadou Marga. Pene completely revamped the band with ultra-slick session players in 1991. Four years later, the group toured Europe and North America. ~ Craig Harris

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