African Music Encyclopedia


Yaya Diallo


Yaya Diallo, born in 1946 in the rural village of Fienso in Mali (then called the French Sudan) plays the traditional Minianka instruments of his people, the djembe (vase-shaped hand drum hollowed out from the trunk of a tree and traditionally covered with goat skin) and the balafon (a wooden xylophone with gourd resonators).

Influenced greatly by his maternal grandmother (a musician and the chief of a neighboring village) and mentor, seer, and musician, Nangape Kone, Diallo combined drumming with spirituality continuing a Minianka tradition where music is the sacred healing vessel of the community. In fact, in 1980 Diallo named his first recording after his mentor, Nangape.

Diallo won a scholarship from his government and he began his advanced studies in 1967 at the University of Montreal in Canada. He graduated with a B.S. degree in chemistry, working for just a few years in that field. The call of the drum beat too loudly in his soul and after a while Diallo felt increasingly alienated from his laboratory career. Today Diallo continues to live in the Montreal area, making his living as a drum teacher and a performer. He has written an excellent book:
The Healing Drum: African Wisdom Teachings
Destiny Books, One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont.

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