Vieux Diop (Via Jo) is the debut American album from Vieux Diop, a masterful kora player known previously as a player in Youssou N'Dour's band. Here, he performs pieces both instrumental, and pieces accompanied only by his own vocals. The works range from ancient traditional jali pieces to contemporary works on philosophy. At times, the semi-traditional kora is replaced for extended passages on the keyboards and guitars of his band. Not that his band is in any way inadequate, but the focus of the album is hazy from time to time, as the tone switches from semi-traditional to fully contemporary and back again in a moment. The album starts out with a few numbers from the ninth and 12th century jali repertoires, sung in Bambare, Wolof, and Mandingo. It then moves to a few newer numbers, displaying a greater range of abilities on the part of the band, as well as the guest artists (including new age guitarist Brian Keane). By the end of the album, the tone has been set to a higher tempo dance groove, with the lyrics more firmly set in Wolof, and the beat firmly set on a more urban level. Youssou N'Dour is one of the legends of African music, and here his sideman comes out on his own in full regalia. Pick it up for a nice look at what a kora player does in an urban recording setting.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg