The Afropop Pioneer
Even at an early age, the singer and songwriter Wasis Diop from Senegal charted a path between traditional Africa and the world of western music. Consequently, he traveled extensively between the two continents. In the nineties, he established himself as a noteworthy international influence in France, particularly by composing film and other musical scores.
The development of Wasis Diop’s musical career started at an early age. At fourteen, he learned to play the guitar and began to move his musical career in a forward direction. At that time in South Africa, this was quite a feat for someone who had not been born into the caste of the Griots.
In the early seventies, Wasip moved to France and founded the group "West African Cosmos” with Umban Ukset, a musician from Guinea-Bissau. Well before the term "world music” was common, their native Afro-jazz sound met western production, resulting in a world tour and a release by the American label CBS.
In 1979, Wasis Diop left the group in order to concentrate on a solo career. In the following years, his repertoire expanded to include, among other ventures, work with the Japanese avant-garde musician Yasuaki Shimuzu. He also spent several months in Jamaica, where he sought a connection to the Reggae scene resulting in an album with that theme. In 1980, he returned to France.
Wasis Diop worked in 1981 with the African singer Marie-France Anglade, with whom he produced the album "MFA Kera.” In the years that followed, he traveled frequently to London where he met the singer Sade’s producer. He then released a single with the major record label WEA. During this time, he also worked on a film project that was never realized.
By the late eighties, Wasis Diop was seriously contemplating a withdrawal from music. Thanks to his relationship with French producer Martin Meissonnier, he instead released a single with the Dreyfus label in May of 1989. Subsequently, Diop again traveled to Japan to produce another album with his friend and colleague Shimuzu. Their work received unexpected critical acclaim. A most noteworthy claim to fame was "C`est le dernier qui a parlé,” a piece that he composed for Tunisian singer Amina Annabi’s album. She represented France in the Eurovision Song Contest and won second place with her interpretation of the song.
Following this success, Wasis Diop produced a 1992 album that brought him further recognition. Originally composed as the film score for "Hyénes,” which was directed by his brother, Djibril Diop Mambety, the album’s west African songs, melodies of the Kora and influences ranging from Spanish to Keltic music resulted in an original world music composition that furthered Diop’s reputation.
The 1995 album, "No sant,” combined Diop’s talent with that of old friends such as Yasuaki Shimuzu, the Congolese singer Lokua Kanza and the Ghanaian singer Lena Fiagbe. "No Sant” proved to be the largest success that his career had experienced and brought performances in France’s large concert venues as well as spreading his name throughout west Africa, where he also performed.
His third album, "Toxu,” was a collaboration with legendary producer Wally Badarou of Benin. "Toxu” offers multiple star performances including Amadou and Mariam, the famed blind singers from Mali and Talking Heads’ David Byrne, who’s hit, "Once in a Lifetime,” Diop covered on the album.
Events at the HKW:
Thursday, 17th, February, 2000
Wasis Diop, Senegal/Paris
Organiser: House of World Cultures
Wasis Diop was born in 1950 in Senegal’s capital city of Dakar, where he took his first steps as a musician. His father was a high-ranking dignitary and one of the Lebou, the people who were the original inhabitants of Dakar.
After moving to France in the early seventies, he founded the group "West African Cosmos,” which specialized in a mixture of jazz and African rhythms.
Wasis Diop’s solo career began in 1979 with albums in Japan and Jamaica as well as one with singer Marie-Francoise Anglade and a single in London. Despite this body of work, he seriously contemplated withdrawing from the music world in the late eighties.
It wasn’t until the nineties, when he wrote "C`est le dernier qui a parlé” for Tunisian singer Amina Annabi, that his luck began to improve again. She used the song to represent France at the Eurovision Song Contest, which gained him notoriety as a composer. A further hit came in 1992 with his album "Hyènes,” the score for his brother’s film bearing the same name. The albums that followed, "No Sant” and "Toxu,” firmly established Wasis Diop as a star of French pop music.