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World Music CD Reviews North American

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Idrissa Diop
Yakar
Tinder

By NED HAMMAD

Published April 19, 2006

It’s the late ’80s in Los Angeles. Or so the studio-slick production and playing on Senegalese vocalist Diop’s latest might have you think. Cuts such as “Yakar” and “Fo” mix Latin jazz, rock and funk with an overbearing focus on flashy instrumental technique that downplays the singer’s smoky voice. Dated horn arrangements dampen whatever life Diop and his fine backing singers muster up. The loungey, late-night love song “Nop”—relatively sparse with a rhythm section, piano and sax—sounds like a stiff, sanitized victim of multi-track recording; even then a wily, fretless bass fights the vocalist for the listener’s attention. Occasionally, as on the strings-driven, duple-metered “Guenth”  (elevated by lush, climbing vocal harmonies introducing the chorus) and the reggae-flavored “Tire Ailleurs” (a call to the French for tolerance for the offspring of Senegalese soldiers who fought for France in WWII), the instrumentalists settle down long enough for a song to get through. A typo in Diop’s press materials describes the singer as having “a curiosity that inspired him to look … into the expected.” Can somebody say “Freudian slip?”

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