It's not so often that a US Top 40 chart hit is a song whose origins can be traced back 300 years, and even less often that such a song would be sung in Spanish. So when Ritchie Valens went into a studio and recorded La Bamba 50 years ago this month, he carved himself what would become a special place in American pop music history. It was one of those cases of the B side becoming the hit, though: the A side was Oh Donna, which showcased a sweeter, croonier side of Valens (singing in English), but was a somewhat unremarkable tune on its own. Here's a live recording of La Bamba by Valens, who, of course, along with rock'n'roll legend Buddy Holly, lost his life in an airplane crash just as his career was blossoming. Almost 30 years after La Bamba's original release, a version by Valens' natural heirs Los Lobos became a hit once again. And, admittedly, I didn't make it through the entire clip, but it's perhaps worth noting, for the record, that a Barack Obama-related version is available for your listening and viewing, er, pleasure? [more inside]
A single photograph taken in 1913 of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacké—the Santé Serigne Touba, founder of the Sufi sect known as the Mouride (Murid) Way, followed by millions in Senegal and elsewhere—when he was put under house arrest by the French, has provided remarkable consistency to the sect's iconography. Images of the cheikh: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and more. Story on an art exhibit and the web site of the exhibit, including more images of the cheikh. History of Bamba's life in French and in English. More on Muridism.