Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Idrissa Diop & Cheikh Tidiane Tall - Diamonoye Tiopité

The newest of micro-labels rescuing early African popular music, from the "golden age" decades of the 60s and 70s, is Teranga Beat, and its first release is crucial. Diamonoye Tiopité chronicles a transformative period in Senegalese music, when mbalax arose from the shadows of the Afro-Cuban music that had dominated pop culture for many years. 

The vehicle for illustrating this music history is the early career of Idrissa Diop and the band SAHEL. This CD collects three selections from Diop's first solo record, 1969's Diouba, including the immensely popular "Yaye Boye" that became essential for every Senegalese band to cover. Four songs from SAHEL's epochal Bamba recording sessions follow, including two songs that did not make the record. These tracks, taken from the rescued master tape, are the highlight of this wonderful Teranga debut. The Cuban rhythms are deep, the sound lush, and the horns bright. The organ solos and guitar of band leader Cheikh Tidiane Tall: Inspired. "Bamba" inserts sabar drums and traditional rhythms, thus innovating the first mbalax hit, with its catchy Touba Touba refrain. "Caridad" is one of the best African salsa recordings I have heard, funky and faithful at the same time.

The remaining five tracks collect two from an Orchestre Cheikh Tall & Idrissa Diop record, plus three previously unpublished recordings Idrissa Diop did with SAHEL in 1976. While the sound quality of these last tracks is more marginal, they do illustrate a completed transition to mbalax, with the tama talking drum taking its important role.

Diamonoye Tiopité is an Idrissa Diop revelation and education for me. I had only known the percussionist and singer from his later European recordings, which invariably leave me ambivalent with glossy, rock-oriented over-production. I'll post one of those albums in the next few days. This new CD of wonderfully fresh, old music gives me much more respect for Idrissa Diop and his important contribution to Senegalese music history. Production of this CD also led to a reconstitution of SAHEL in Dakar, and a couple of videos of new performances by these swinging elders are on the web. Enjoy this one!

Diamonoye Tiopité is available at the usual download vendors; for full sound CD or vinyl you can go here.

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