by Opiyo Oloya

November 1996

Wasis Diop's No Sant (Triloka Records) is a great piece of music, well written and delicately performed with an ear to melody. However, to arrive at this conclusion one must first suspend the bias that has become the standard of judging what is or is not African music. Obviously, aware that African purists could denounce this as yet another piece of western pop masquerading as African pop, Diop has laboured hard to make this album stand on its own, and the result is a magnificent piece of recording.

Diop, who employs Zairean minimalist Lokua Kanza on guitar, deftly sidesteps trying to sound "African" even as he fuses Senegalese musical background with a very westernised pop sound. On the tunes "African Dream" and "No Sant", which he performs with popular singer Lena Fiagbe, Diop's voice provides a counterbalance to Fiagbe's nectarine voice. The drums, the kora, the keyboard and saxophones are carefully layered so that nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. In "La danse des Maures", Diop confirms his African heritage even as he takes flight as an AWB (Artist Without Border).

Tshala Muana, the Zairean Queen of mutuashi, a traditional dance rhythm from her native Kasai region, has come out with a stunning album titled Mutuashi (Stern's). This is easily one of the best recording from Zaire in a long time. She achieves this rare feat by travelling back in time to the roots of Zairean rumba, in the early 1960s when Afro-Cuban son reigned supreme and groups like African Fiesta and OK Jazz were just beginning to emerge on the scene. On the first eight tracks, she is accompanied by the crack Zairean team that includes Daly Kimoko (lead guitar), Lokassa Ya Mbongo (rhythm guitar) and Ngouma Lokito (bass). The Latino side of the equation is balanced by Pablo "Chino" Nunez (timbales) Papo Pepin (Congas), Leopoldo Pineda (trombone) and Ite Jerez-Bomberito Zarzuela (trumpet). The mix is so natural and well executed, you wonder why nobody ever thought of this before. Check out "Mudiavi" and "Lekela Muadi" two tunes where Muana really croons her thing and the musicians are truly having fun. Then, as if to demonstrate what she can do with soukous, she cut loose the guitar maniacs on the last three tracks and the result is pure joy and sunshine.

Meanwhile Fode Baro, a young Guinean, makes a splashy international debut with a dance album titled Donsoke (Stern's). The albums combines the sharp Parisian disco sound with the Madinka rhythm that made the Super Rail Band of Bamako famous. Baro is a promising singer backed by a superb cast of musicians that include Sekouba Bambino, Djanka Diabate, Sona Diabate and Sayon Diabate. Moreover, on the track "Koumayema" he is joined by top Zairean guitarists Lokassa Ya Mbongo (rhythm guitar) and Nene Tchakou (lead guitar). Philippe Guez burns the keyboard with some truly amazing animations. In spite of the lack of traditional instruments like the djembe and balafon which go down well with anything Madinka, the ambiance created is above all, a happy one.

The previous edition of Afrodisc is available

Opiyo Oloya is the host of the radio program Karibuni on CIUT 89.5 FM Radio, Toronto. The show airs on Saturday 4:00 PM- 5:00 PM.

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