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Live At Club Soda with his band KANZA by Yaya Diallo

Yaya has done a unique thing with "Live at Club Soda" - He has combined the traditional tribal sounds of African music with instruments rarely heard within this context. The recording features his band KANZA, and the music is certainly interesting. Electric Guitar, Bass guitar, Drum kit, Saxophone, Electric Violin, and vocalists are all combined with Dounou, Djembe, Bafoko, and other traditional African instruments for a cornucopia of complex rhythms.

Recorded live in 1989 at Montreal’s Club Soda, the disc opens with "Samba the Trucker", which introduces the listener to a general feel of what to expect. We are treated to a repetitive African rhythm foundation, with the vocals, saxophone, and violin creating a melodic top layer. Above this, we hear the occasional solos, taking us to the jazz influence. This combination of a solid groove foundation reminded me of classic jazz or even funk. Yaya’s rhythm section keeps the groove solid and deep, leaving plenty of room for more solos from saxophone and violin. Just when you think it is getting predictable, vocals come back in to break up the feel.

The third track, "Gifono", opens with a guitar similar to Andy Summers, and the feel is on the offbeat. Very cool groove, and becomes even more interesting with the violin added. This is unique by every definition, but maintains a solid feel. This one takes on almost a Celtic feel.

Track five, "Forgeron", has a progressive rock feel, making me think of elements of The Police or King Crimson. Mostly instrumental, the saxophone solo leads the melody, with guitar and violin holding an interesting rhythm. Bass and drums are steady. A middle interlude brings vocals into the picture, and introduces a more conventional rhythmic pattern. A breakdown after the vocals allows the bass guitarist to show us some of his slap and chord technique. Very cool, and takes us back to the opening progressive feel. This is a favorite of mine.

Over all eight tracks, this disc shows quite a musical risk. Taking these traditional village African rhythms and vocals, and combining them with the rock and jazz instrumentation is at least a challenge. While still maintaining the traditional feel, Yaya manages to incorporate these new instruments with a large amount of success. I didn’t expect to enjoy this release, but found myself entertained throughout. This isn’t for the jazz traditionalist, but is something worth checking out if you have any interest in a fusion based upon an African foundation.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Yaya Diallo
  • CD Title: Live At Club Soda with his band KANZA
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Onzou Records
  • Tracks: Samba the Trucker, Sewa Nimo, Gifono, Chechon (The Skunk), Forgeron (The Blacksmith), Nakan, Teli, Makanou
  • Musicians: Lionel Corcos (Electic Guitar), Eval Manigat (Bass Guitar), Andre Raymond (Drum Set), Jody Golick (Saxophone), Joel Zifkin (Electric Violin), Michel Bonneau (Dounou), Fanta Kone (Vocals), Delphine Pandoue (Vocals), Josiane Antourel (Vocals), Yaya Diallo (Djembe, Bafoko, and Lead Vocals)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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