By Ty Burr
Updated July 19, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

A lithe voice singing of local customs, a warm musical mesh of acoustic guitar and tribal instruments, rhythms that interlock like multicolored Legos: Senegal’s Baaba Maal seems to be a traditionalist, but somehow his sunny, unstoppable drive makes everybody else seem backwards. Fellow countryman Youssou N’Dour may top global charts with heavily produced West African soul, but Maal, a product of both northern Senegal’s ethnic minority and musical studies in France, uses fewer sonic colors to paint equally beautiful pictures in Baayo. From the gently devastating title cut — a self-portrait of an artist hearing of his mother’s death while marooned in a foreign country — to ”Samba,” the spectral closing instrumental, Baayo resonates with the specificity of a man in love with his homeland and the universality of a man who knows how to speak to the world. A