Words by Martin Sinnock
This is a Senegalese recording, but not in the typical style of the Wolof musicians, who dominate public attention in the capital Dakar and the north of the country. It is a far more traditional, rural and largely acoustic album. Abdou Diop comes from the Casamance region in the south of Senegal, and his music is sung in the melodic Pulaar language. He joined the army – as a musician – and this took him to the capital where he met fellow Pulaar speaker Baaba Maal, who convinced him to remain true to his Casamance musical roots.
Nootee is only Abdou Diop’s second album and it is a real treasure. He has an appealing voice – slightly breathy, with just the right amount of raspiness – and with a similar tone to Boubacar Traoré. The instrumentation is predominantly acoustic guitars, with hoddu (the Pulaar word for the ngoni lute), backed by percussion and calabash. However, occasional electric guitar passages lift the music from melancholy into a gently swirling and joyous funk – particularly evident on the sublime track ‘Weliyaade.’ Female backing vocals give a Malinke flavour, providing the album a Malian/Guinean slant. On ‘Mannaa’, Diop sings in the Mande language and the addition of rippling tama drum makes it sound more like a conventional Wolof mbalax track. The variations in texture certainly add to the enjoyment and the bonus of three tracks from his earlier album show how his music has progressed. Abdou Diop’s health has suffered from bouts of malaria and this has hindered his career. However, with just two albums he has become a musical ambassador for the Casamance region. He is an exceptional talent and this is an extremely enjoyable and uplifting album.
TRACK TO TRY: Dominik