Expanding Horizons and Opening Minds with Yaya Diallo

Sometimes new music is sent my way to check out that is vastly outside my typical purview, even outside of my musical comfort zones – despite my typically casting a wide net in regards to the art I consume. Yaya Diallo is most certainly one of these artists. I have almost no frame of reference for the style of music he makes, have little to no experience with artists like him, and have almost no knowledge of the traditions from which he is borrowing, adapting, and creating. Yet, when I push myself outside of these boundaries and listen with an open heart and open mind, I tend to be pleasantly surprised… sometimes, even finding myself growing in profound and meaningful ways from experiencing the art. Such is the case for the beautiful, mind-expanding music of the Quebec based world-music savant, Yaya Diallo.

Kachii: Traditions to Traditions explores the “lost and hidden music from the Minianka culture of south-eastern Mali”. Blending Western instruments with the traditional percussion, Diallo’s exploration is a more modern and singular version of the Minianka music, blending their culture with modern sensibilities and other influences to create something unique. The folk tradition, beautiful sounds, and emotive vibes flow throughout each note from start to finish, floating from moments of transcendence with lush choir vocals sung in native tongues to impressive African drum solos. The experience is certainly one that a Westerner born and bred on alternative, punk rock, and old school hip hop with no frame of reference can still appreciated in deep and meaningful ways… this you can trust.

A rabbit hole of Googling, beginning with Yaya’s own words and descriptions of album, moving into the culture of the people and their music, led me down a journey that I cannot summarize here, so instead, let me leave you, the reader, with a few notes on the emotional experience of the album.

On each of the numerous listens I’ve had of this album so far, I’ve been unable to avoid the music fully taking me over. Putting it on while writing or doing chores has inevitably led me to sitting back down, breathing it in, and experiencing it. Each and every time, I have had to pause what I’m doing to just take the music in and let myself feel it. I’ve had to let the music take me on a journey of emotions and dreams. I think of a village, children playing, parents taking care of their families, everyone dancing, love, community. I feel literally warmth overcome my body with loving, pleasant memories of my own family, visions of our best and most serene moments together. I travel in my mind from village to village, even small towns and cities. And as I open my eyes and return to my writing, my chores, my life… I feel a sense of peace that far few bit of music – or art at all, for that matter – have ever taken me to.

Yaya Diallo has a real gem here and to deprive yourself of checking it out would be a real mistake. Happy New Year to all reading this… do yourself a real favor and head over to Bandcamp right now to start the year off right.

Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here and at Cinapse, as well as contributing to a few other sites on occasion. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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