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Liital

by Aby Ngana Diop

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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

      $6 USD  or more

     

  • Cassette + Digital Album

    Limited edition pressing high bias tape of this very surprising and powerful recording from Senegalese tassukat Aby Ngana Diop. Released in 1994, this cassette completely floored me when I first heard it many years later (a radio dj on the eastern seaboard mailed it to me a few years ago and i blogged about it).

    Includes unlimited streaming of Liital via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days

      $8 USD or more 

     

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Brilliant, bombastic and beautiful, this recording of Aby Ngana Diop's only cassette is one of the most unique recordings I've ever heard. Senegalese music that combines mbalax, tassu (rap-like traditional stylings) and a dash of what sounds like drum n' bass.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Liital via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days

      $18 USD or more 

     

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Includes unlimited streaming of Liital via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days

      $12 USD or more 

     

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about

Senegalese griot Aby Ngana Diop was famous for her taasu, a form of oral poetry spoken to the rhythmic accompaniment of sabar and tama drums. Taasu is typically created and performed by griot women (a class of poets, storytellers and/or musicians), with a lead taasukat (practitioner of taasu) performing her distinct style of heightened, rhythmically declaimed speech in call-and-response with a small chorus of female vocalists. (Taasu is seen by some to be a predecessor to rap.) Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Diop developed a reputation for being one of the most sought-after taasukats in Dakar, performing with her backup singers, dancers and drummers at parties, weddings and baptisms of the Dakar elite, including government officials and dignitaries. Known for her piercing, powerful voice, Diop was loved not only for her skills in taasu but for her “ngéwële,” or “art of being griot” – her speech, manner, facial expressions and hand gestures – all of which encapsulated the essence of griotness. When she performed, she commanded and captured everyone’s attention with her charismatic stage presence and humor. Aby Ngana Diop was undisputedly the best taasukat of her generation.

In 1994, the Dakar diva released her one and only studio cassette recording, Liital, to the Senegalese market. Liital was groundbreaking in the history of Senegalese music because it was the first commercial recording to feature a traditional female taasukat performing to the modern accompaniment of mbalax, Senegal’s quintessential pop genre. (Mbalax grew out of Afro-Cuban music which was extremely popular in the post-Independence era of the 1960s; when combined with the rhythms of sabar and tama drums, sung in the native tongue of Wolof, mbalax became the primary popular music genre of Senegal, dominating the airwaves from the 1980s well into the twenty-first century and popularized worldwide by Youssou N’Dour.) The combination of Diop and her backup vocalists with their powerful taasu, along with the driving, complex rhythms of the sabar and tama drums, mixed with key elements of mbalax (such as the syncopated, polyphonic marimba sounds played on the Yamaha DX7 keyboard) was something the Senegalese public had never heard before. But it wasn’t only because of the fusion of taasu with mbalax; unlike in other mbalax tunes, the musical arrangements on this cassette are instead peculiarly minimalist and almost trance-like, with static harmonies and melodic figures playing more of an atmospheric role. The cassette became a huge hit, propelling Diop to a new level of superstardom, allowing her to form an mbalax group which would perform soirées on major stages such as the Théâtre National Daniel Sorano. Diop’s cassette could be heard blasting from taxis and from loudspeakers at house parties, weddings and baptisms for years to come. Liital bridged the gap between the more traditional taasu and the modern mbalax sound, thus appealing to all generations of the Senegalese public – and they simply couldn’t get enough of it.

When Aby Ngana Diop died unexpectedly on July 4, 1997, the country mourned her passing, but continued to celebrate her music. Other artists such as Cheikh Lô, Thio Mbaye and Lamine Touré released recordings based on some of Diop’s taasu and accompanying drum phrases, paying further tribute to her musical legacy. Although this cassette has caught the attention of some African music aficianados who have stumbled upon it in recent years, it remains largely unknown to the wider world. Hopefully this re-release from Awesome Tapes From Africa will change that.

[Face A]
Dieuleul-Dieuleul (Take it)
This song features lots of tama and sabar drums playing a traditional dance rhythm known as niari gorong. “Take it, take it take it, if you want it – take it. You might make mistakes in life, but I’m not going to fight with you; if you want it, take it.”

Ndame (Success)
A typical praise song for the nobility, “Ndame” begins with a sample of horses galloping, a signature sound referencing the buur (kings) of previous centuries. Diop sings praises to the many generations in a noble family, explaining their genealogies; she tells them they are the best because they are loyal, and that they will always succeed in life.

Yaye Penda Mbaye
This is another praise song (to a person named Yaye Penda Mbaye.) Like other tracks, this song again features the driving polyrhythms of tama and sabar.

[Face B]
Liital
The opening features a sample of train sounds: “When the train is coming you will know it’s coming because you will hear its horn.” (This is essentially a praise phrase, announcing the arrival of an important person.) The title song of the album, “Liital,” showcases Aby Ngana Diop’s talent for creative humor. Liital is a word Diop herself invented; it can be roughly translated as “showing support for and taking care of someone.” Diop says that she will “liital” those who are her friends, but if you are not a good person, you won’t deserve liital. The backup vocalists suggest a succession of names, each of which Diop teasingly rejects by saying “no, let it go, next one please” until they finally propose the name of one of her friends, and she agrees to “liital” them. The comedic nature of this song may be difficult to translate cross-culturally, but it played an important role in the song’s immense popularity.

Sapaly (To make flavorful)
“You don’t need to add any seasoning because it’s already tasty.” Although the word sapaly is typically used in reference to food, in this context, Diop is using it to praise people. “We like you just the way you are – there is no need to change yourself!”

Ndadje (To meet)
In this song, Aby Ngana Diop warns us that we should be wary of people that we don’t know. If you meet new people, you don’t necessarily know who they are or where they came from. The song is an hommage to tried and true friendships that have lasted for a long time.

Notes by Patricia Tang (June 2014)

credits

released September 2, 2014

tags

tags: world Senegal

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about

Aby Ngana Diop Senegal

Senegal's tradition of tassu (poetic storytelling oriented verbal art) had never been recorded until Aby Ngana Diop's 1994 cassette, which solidified her fame across Dakar. Known for performing her aggressive brand of rap-like almost-sung poetry among the upper echelons of society, Diop's sound became legendary following her death in 1997. ... more

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