Baaba Maal, also known as The Nightingale because of his clear high-pitched voice, was born in the riverside town of Podor in the Northern region of Senegal. He sings in Pulaar, the language of the Fula ethnic group, a nomadic people also found in Niger, Somalia, Guinea, Mali, and Benin. As a young boy he learned to play the kora and later turned to the guitar as his instrument of choice.
Maal was trained at the music conservatory in Dakar and won a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where he studied composition and arrangement of Western music. While in Paris Maal hooked up with his longtime friend, blind singer Mansour Seck, they returned to Senegal and put together the group Dande Lenol (Voice of the People). Their landmark release, Firin' in Fouta, was worldwide success. Maal also maintains an acoustic folkloric group that uses only traditional African instruments.