Alpha Yaya Diallo brings an African groove with a bit of everything to the Festival du Bois

As a youngster growing up in Guinea, West Africa, Alpha Yaya Diallo embraced a lot of culture. Hans traveled around the country with his father, a sought-after doctor, and was exposed to musical influences from Susu, Mandinka and his own Fulani people. He also spent time in nearby Senegal, where mbalax dance music was paramount, and he heard the sounds of Cape Verde and the Caribbean.

He absorbed it all like a sponge.

“There are many different types of music in Africa,” he points out in a call from his home in Burnaby, “it’s a huge continent. I started playing guitar at the age of seven and listened to everything from local music to rhumba to guitarists like young Mark Knopfler or George Benson – all those guys. “

Diallo moved from Africa to Europe in 1991 and joined a band called Fatala in the Netherlands, which was picked up by Peter Gabriel’s label, Real World. Strengthened by this signature, the group toured in North America, and that was when Diallo first opened his eyes to his future home, Vancouver, where he landed in the summer of ’91.

“I stayed here to teach African music workshop,” he says, “so I met some people and I just decided to stay in Vancouver forever. I’ve been here a long time now and I’m glad I did. “because it allowed me to know the country. I traveled every corner of Canada, from Vancouver to Newfoundland, Yukon, Yellowknife. I know Canada more than many Canadians.”

Much of Diallo’s travels across Canada involved playing folk festivals in Edmonton and Ottawa and jazz festivals in Toronto and Montreal. He will continue his festival walks with two mainstage performances and a workshop at the upcoming Festival du Bois, the family-oriented Francophone music festival taking place in Mackin Park in Coquitlam. It will be his third appearance at the annual event.

Video by Alpha Yaya Diallo "Freedom"

In addition to being a fixture on Canada’s live music scene, Diallo has made a splash in the recording world. His 1998 album, The message, won a Juno for best global recording, and three years later he took that category again The journey. In 2005, he scored a third Juno nod when African Guitar Summit– who saw him in the company of other voters Madagascar Slim, Donne Roberts and Pa Joe – was named World Music Album of the Year.

That album was followed up in 2006 by African Guitar Summit II, and a very successful tour of the United States. So is there any chance of a third African Guitar Summit plate?

“Well, we’re talking about it,” Diallo says, “but everyone has a project, and right now I’m focusing on my new album. Probably when we do, we’ll see, but we talked about it, for sure.”

The new disc Diallo hopes to have out of this is produced by the Malian multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Fofana, who plays ngoni and kora on it. In addition to singer-guitarist Diallo, the album features African musicians Adama Bilaro Dembele on percussion, Naby Camara on balafon, Etienne Mangala on bass, Knowledge Majonik on drums and Madagascar Slim on guitar. Local crooner Janelle Reid performs on two tracks, and rapper Ndidi Cascade does her thing on two others.

“It’s talking about a lot of things,” Diallo says of the lyrical side of his new project, “like what’s going on right now. “All the challenges we have right now, from disease to war to politics to climate change. We face a lot of challenges.”

Video of the African Guitar Summit

Over the years, Diallo has performed and / or recorded with the likes of David Lindley, Thomas Mapfumo, Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Burning Spear and Vancouver’s Paperboys. When asked to name some of the local players he has come to admire most, Diallo does not lean towards world music artists like himself. Surprisingly, he goes more for the local rockers and blues men.

“Well, I like people who sing and play guitars,” he says, “I like some artists like that. You know, I listen a lot to Bryan Adams, I listen to – who’s the big star, a blues player? “A local guy. What’s his name? Oh yes – Colin James. And I like Bruce Cockburn too, that’s another Canadian guy I like.”

In addition to winning several major awards for his music over the years, Diallo has garnered a lot of critical acclaim for his smooth, seemingly effortless guitar playing, of which he performs on a Quebec-made, Godin Multiac Gypsy Jazz Guitar. He has also been known to rummage around on a Fender Stratocaster, just like many of the greatest guitar heroes there are. But he claims his favorite ax is too many to mention.

“There’s a lot of them because my style is mixed,” he explains, “it’s from western blues, African blues to flamenco style, because I play electric, acoustic and classical guitars in nylon style. So I can say millions of guitars. players I like to hear. “

For his main stage appearances at the Festival du Bois, Diallo will be joined by his band, which includes the aforementioned rhythm section of bassist Mangala and drummer Majonik, plus keyboardist Joshua Amadine and singer-dancer N’Nato Camara. He describes the music he plays these days as “Afro-pop”.

Video of Quicksound & ALpha Ya Ya Diallo – Mosulu (official music video)

“It’s an African groove,” he remarks, “but with a bit of everything. There is, you know, funk, blues. And sometimes it’s really a mix. We have some acoustic songs accompanied by traditional instruments, but sometimes we really make it optimistic too, very danceable music. There can be a lot of energy. “

Alpha Yaya Diallo will perform on the Festival du Bois main stage on April 2 at 17.30 and on April 3 at 14.15 and leads a workshop in Mackin House on April 2 at. 13:30.

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