african music review spiritual music strings traditional tuned percussion world world music

Yaya Diallo – Kachii: Traditions to Traditions Review

Merging lost melodies from Mali with modern string trios from today.

What does Yaya Diallo sound like?

A mixture of Mali traditional instruments backed by a western string arrangement.

The review of Yaya Diallo – Kachii: Traditions to Traditions

Yaya Diallo has been on a quest for his new album. Yaya wanted to mix traditional Minianka musical culture from southeastern Mali, with a western score. To do this, Yaya dove into devotional songs from the culture and rewrote them to add a more experimental tone. Experimental here doesn’t mean crazy synths and odd phrases – it is about mixing Africa and the Western world together and creating hypnotic musical phrases to feel at peace with.

Yaya Diallo
Yaya Diallo

The balafon is front and centre of the album and creates a warm, playful tuned percussive tone that is difficult not to love. It is as rich as it is full-bodied and carries weight. The music also showcases the djembe and talking drum and they are often panned in a way to feel like you are sitting inside a drum circle. The other overtly Mali and Miniankan contribution is the vocals and they form two very different deliveries. In tracks like opener “Kachi Zie”, it is a chant that you’d often associate with the continent. Later tracks like “Koredjuga” and “Hoo” have an ear-piercing wild call that is very distinctive. The voice is so high pitched it is like all the air has been sucked out and you are squeezing the last breath of a human out of the eyeballs of the vocalist. For someone that hadn’t heard this vocal style before, it took me a few listens to get accustomed to it.

The majority of the album follows variations on a string motif. The violin, cello and double bass have an accentuated low end which adds richness and depth to the strings. In some ways, it reminds me of how Japanese orchestras are often recorded. This might also be because the motif here has a mystical shade to it that I really enjoyed. The motif has a natural sway between two mini riffs and so it’s hypnotic, deeply resonating and therefore could easily pop you into a trance-like state if you zoned out to it. Whilst I’d have liked to see Yaya Diallo branch out beyond these motif variations into something else, it would not be in keeping with the album’s intent. These are hidden or lost melodies from Minianka so preserving them and integrating into its groove is key.

Fans of world music, spiritual music and traditional healing music will enjoy this. Yaya Diallo has ticked all those boxes but the album also acts as a passage of melodies through time. I find that genuinely poetic. It’s nice to see different cultures forming new ideas in a melting pot together too.

Recommended track: Bon Yi

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Yaya Diallo - Kachii: Traditions to Traditions



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