A Senegalese-born drummer, Kissima Diabate has been playing nearly all his life. Born into a griot family, the percussionist's impressive résumé found him becoming a djembe soloist in the Ballet D'Afrique Noir at age twelve and, only four years later, a solo drummer and dancer for the Ballet National Du Senegal. Yet Diabate's renown in his own country stands in stark contrast to his fame elsewhere in the world. Despite recently teaching and organizing concerts in Europe and the United States, Diabate remains a talent far too below the radar, a point well-proven on his impressive Beug Fallou.
Consisting of twelve percussionists, five vocalists, and a kora/balafon player, Diabate combines original material with reworked traditional numbers for an album so viscerally energetic that it seems bursting at the seams. Over the course of the twelve tracks, Diabate shows again and again what real African drumming sounds like. This is no watered down world music presentation, but a refreshingly earnest attempt to present one's work to the world. Such a statement is cleansing, and the music inside thrives with urgent delight for it.
The album opens with an introduction, featuring Diabate solo, before the rest of the band joins in for the raucous "Komodou." With Diabate leading the way in call-and-response, the group builds into a thudding pulse of cross-rhythms pattering around one another. Diabate's soloing atop the ensemble rebounds the group again and again into deeper and faster rhythms, before sliding effortlessly into "Serigne Fallou," where the use of kora and balafon adds a beautiful and welcome melodic component to the pulse. When the vocalists enter, the piece breathes with a resolute beauty all its own.
The rest of the album essentially moves through variations on these approaches; melodically charged excursions interspersed with a few percussion-only displays. Yet Diabate is never limited by these two worlds. The hip-swaying dioun dioun line of "Thathibi," a piece written only for drums, has a sensuality far removed from the steadier, level-headed "Tata," while the hectic, cartoony play of the full ensemble on "Namenalaine" balances out the more poppy melodism of "Kanakassi." This is an album of deep emotional depth as well as virtuosic playing.
Though Diabate may not yet be known in the larger "world music" circle, his time is surely coming. With Beug Fallou, Diabate has placed his talent in the public arena. Now it's time for listeners to catch up.
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.