Bassist Cheikh Ndoye – Why Is Music Important (The Panel Experiment) by Brent-Anthony Johnson…
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Cheikh Ndoye I am a bass player from Senegal living in the US. I have my own group, The Cheikh Ndoye Group, which features many renowned artists from around the world. I am also involved in projects such as the group Tizer – which led by the great Keyboardist, Lao Tizer. I co-produced the latest album “Hoodman’s Blind” for the amazing Armenian pianist, Arshak Sirunyan, and I work as the Music Director and bassist for virtuoso violinist Karen Briggs, among many others.
Who are your primary musical influences?
They are so many that it’s hard to narrow them down onto one page! But a few that come to mind are: Salif Keita, Michael Brecker, Chucho Valdez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Baaba Maal, Karim Ziad, Sixun, Ivo Papasov, John Coltrane, Ludwig von Beethoven…
What are you listening to musically, in the past 12 months that has enhanced the way you think about music and your craft?
I listen to anything that catches my ear from Jazz, R&B to Rock. In the past 12-months, a new CD by my good friend, (saxophonist) Bob Franceschini called “Project Them” has been constantly in my playlist. I also love listening to the great Cuban musicians like Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chianguito and others. An incredible Cuban drummer and friend, Raul Pineda, has been directing me toward a lot of materials that are really worth spending time with! It has absolutely changed the way I think about music.
How does your personal musical voice directly relate to the function of the basses? Also, what are your main instruments?
I have always been attracted to the “low end” of the bass guitar. I see the instrument as primarily holding a supportive role in the music I am playing. I try to hear the composition as a whole – which is difficult to do, and requires a lot of practice and training. I also play piano, guitar, and another instrument called the Bass Ngoni, which is an African contrabass.
Describe your musical composition process.
This is no easy task, at least for me…! I have no special training, but I spent my entire life studying and comparing compositions. Most of the time, I come from the melodic side of composition. I don’t even think of bass (at first), because it is such a delicate instrument and it holds an important role in music! So, I tend to work on bass lines, last. I find myself writing on guitar or piano most often.
How does music affect your culture and immediate environment?
Music has an incredible energy that I can’t even begin to describe! I have traveled the world and have seen many things… Yet, there is nothing close to that special thing music brings to the table. Primarily, I see it as sharing our life experiences with one another. I wish every single person on this earth could experience that, because it would make the world a better place.
What would you be, if not a professional musician?
A coffee specialist! I love the science of coffee. You can actually start a conversation with a complete stranger over a cup of coffee, and I am very passionate about it!
What is the greatest sacrifice you’ve ever made while in the practice of being a musician, and how did that sacrifice affect you?
Honestly, I don’t see it as a sacrifice! Being a musician, I think of myself being very lucky. Being a musician has allowed me to be myself, and being on stage is like being at home for me. I get to travel and learn from so many different cultures around the world.
Describe your standing practice regimen. Also, what technical (and musical) aspects of your playing are you currently working on?
Recently, I have been checking out an incredible musician that many are not quite familiar with: (the late, great) guitarist Ted Greene. I have been intensely studying his harmonic archives.
Going back to the source and understanding a culture is crucial for me, as part of my studies. I have been reading and doing research about the history of Cuban music to better comprehend the development of their multiple styles. As far as my bass… I do a lot of transcriptions of the bebop language – which I am trying to better myself. I also love learning lines from a 5-stringed instrument called the Xalam, from Senegal.
What does music, and being a musician, mean to you – at the deepest level of your being?
I have found, through the years of playing, that music itself is very profound and at the same time deeply sensitive, and it has allowed me to be who I am as a person. While on stage with other fellow musicians, we are sharing what’s truly inside us – all of which is in an exact moment in time.
How important is it to understand the Language of music?
As a musician, the Language of music is as important as your own Native Language. You have to be able to communicate and share with others. Therefore, studying and learning everything about music is essential. The tools of music (chords, modes, scales etc.)… Are just tools, and they alone won’t make you a better player. But, I think connecting the latter with your inner self will get you somewhere. In other words… put your heart into it. The emotion and passion does matter!
How do you collect the series of seemingly random influences and articulate them through music?
Wow! What an interesting question!! I know it can be bizarre… But, the combination of random noises (as a rhythm pattern) can set it off for me. If you pay closer attention and listen, you will find that nature creates music on its own behalf – sometimes utilizing the same rhythms, and harmonies, as we humans use.
Can music ever truly become commercial? Why, or why not?
The term “commercial” is very intricate these days. The actual use of the word in this current world, in my humble opinion, tends to be directed more towards money, image, sex, and fame in most cases. Take away the computer corrections, and auto-tuners from the songs and you probably wouldn’t listen to any of them. The originality and creativity aspect is rather completely lacking in that form of commercial music.