Put an Ear to Yaya Diallo’s Kachii: Traditions to Traditions

By Deuce

Yaya Diallo’s most recent album, Kachii: Traditions to Traditions, has an interesting collection of elements. It combines the rhythms, percussion, and vocal stylings of Western Africa (the artist is from Mali, specifically) with some definite western influences.

The latter includes a bevy of stringed instruments entailing violin tracks, an upright bass, and a cello. There’s also an intermittent interspersing of the flute throughout the album. The result is an entertaining pastiche of sounds, tunes, and sensations that’s unlike most found in popular music of the times.

The heavy reliance on the strings is one of the most notable aspects of this oeuvre. Oftentimes there’s a tight integration between the bass and the cello, which are playing variations of the same notes or chords, if you will. The LP moves very well when one of those strings (either the violin or the cello) takes off on a soaring solo above the rest of the gang.

“Kachie Zie”, the leadoff number, is a good demonstration of this proclivity. It spirals through the sky at a high pitch, taking its time to return back to the planet. “Hakili” also displays this tendency, which is in stark contrast to the otherwise low strings that bestow the piece with a sense of the austere that’s not unwanted.

Yet there’s no repressing the rhythmic pounding for which Diallo (who’s written a book on the subject, The Healing Drum) is known. “Zie” has passages in which he drums incessantly in spurts before falling back in others for a texturized juxtaposition that helps balance the tune.

Plus, some of the songs are endowed with vocals that help to add to their authenticity. “Mato”, for instance, has the classic call and response that delivers a welcome sense of excitement. The vocals are on full display at arguably their finest on “Fantakolo Part 1” and “Fantakolo Part 2”. This reviewer is particularly partial to the first one, which combines a solid drum beat, palatable melody of strings, and the energy of the vocalists (credited as Malia Pellerin and Sara Renelik) to a winning effect.

Nonetheless, some of the more serious numbers are good to hear as well. More dirges, perhaps, than ballads, they help to display the virtue of the strings. “Tien” exemplifies this fact with its low notes, some sort of kalimba sounding drum, and a somber hush that takes the cut out—and does the same for this review.  

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