Alpha Yaya Diallo
Aduna (The World)
Guitarist and vocalist Alpha Yaya Diallo is not yet as popular as his compatriots Mory Kante or Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabate, but maybe the time has come for that situation to change. Diallo isn't as famous, but judging from this compilation of the best tunes from his first two albums, Nene and Futur, he is every bit as gifted. While Diallo did play for rumba-soaked Bembeya Jazz and other famous bands in Guinea, his advantage over his compatriots may be in his location - he currently resides in Canada. This puts him at a distance from the intensely competitive Paris scene, its glossy productions, and seasoned but uninspired session musicians.
Diallo takes a middle road regarding tradition; where other artists go whole hog into Western conventions, with screaming guitar solos and other gratuitous effects, Diallo settles for very strategic and tasteful alterations on the traditional Mande sound. Aduna is well-produced without being over-produced. His guitar lines, both electric and, in many blissful instances, acoustic, are spare and well-stated, never intended to overwhelm the balance of the composition. And perhaps the best song on the album is "Le Futur", a song celebrating the fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and the hopeful future of the continent. The sound is soukous with the restrained elegance typical of Diallo's Mande tradition. Elsewhere, Diallo deftly plays the entrancing Latin themes (notably on the instrumental "Debo") which used to be the bread and butter of musicians across the African continent, and still greatly influence artists there.
Diallo's multi-cultural band should get some credit for both replicating the best in Mande swing music and avoiding its cliches. In the end it's the strength of Diallo's compositions, both his original pieces and his interpretations of tradition, that make the recording the success it is. I'm predicting this album to hit several top ten lists for 1998 - mine is the first. - Craig Tower