Led by vocalist El Hadj Faye, Etoile 2000 is a spin-off group from the seminal Senegalese band Etoile de Dakar, right about the time Youssou N'Dour was laying the foundation of mbalax with the latter. Its style has been called punk mbalax and that's not far off the mark -- Etoile 2000 likes to push things, and Badou N'Diaye's fuzzed-out guitar solos can be likened to '60s punk psychedelia played in some Senegalese garage. That's exactly where most of these tracks were recorded: producer/impresario Mass Diokhane just plugged a tape recorder into the mixing board during a band rehearsal in his garage. The sound quality is murky and rough, but then so is the music, as Etoile 2000's rocking classic "Boubou N'Gary" finds N'Diaye's nasty-ass fuzz sailing over Assane Cisse's rhythm gallop. "Niety Noon" is more a feature for Faye, who wrote most of the songs here, and his clotted, rough vocals would probably fall in the gospel soul shouter slot in the Senegalese spectrum. Clipped rhythm guitar licks -- you can almost hear them as Stax in Senegal -- center the rhythm, N'Diaye mostly lays off the fuzz for his solo, and Tonia Lô chips in with Latin-tinged alto sax. The tamas are usually used as counterpoint to the vocals until they go off big time in the double-time finale -- kinduva Yardbirds rave-up and a formula Etoile 2000 employs often here.
"El Carretero" is clearly Cuban from its opening sax line and vocals in Spanish (probably by Eric M'Backe N'Doye). There are plenty of echo effects in the mix -- you get the feeling these guys are just playing around with echo and pan effects and sometimes wind up in the dub neighborhood -- before N'Diaye's brief fuzzed-out solo takes off and horns cool things back down. Despite some impressive vocal drops from a piercing falsetto by Faye, "Sama Xarit" sounds under-rehearsed and tentative with its clunky rhythm and N'Diaye's solo buried in the mix.
But "Karim" recovers strongly with its choppy arrangement and nice melody framed by horns, the latter of which also blend quite nicely with the fuzz (noise guitar fans might really get off on N'Diaye). "Yaye Tima" rocks out from the start with Faye and N'Diaye exchanging vocal lines; it's a lean, clean rocking machine and a solid closer.
Etoile 2000 recorded just three cassettes in Senegal during its brief existence and these are the only recordings to surface in the wider pop world. The music leaves you wanting to hear more and there can't be a much better recommendation than that for anyone interested in Senegalese and West African pop with a rocking edge.