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Friday, Sep 19 2014 | 00:30
Image: 1591863 Reissue of 1994 cassette release by the Dakar diva, the 1st commercial recording to f/traditional female taasukat performing w/modern accompaniment of mbalax, Senegal's quintessential pop genre.

In 1994, the Dakar diva Aby Ngana Diop 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.)

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 "ngewele," 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.

The cassette became a huge hit, propelling Diop to a new level of superstardom, allowing her to form an mbalax group which would perform soirees on major stages such as the Theatre 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. Available from 19.09.2014
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