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Senegalese Griot Icon Aby Ngana Diop's 'Liital' Re-Released On Awesome Tapes From Africa

Senegalese griot singer Aby Ngana Diop's 'Liital' is out now on Awesome Tapes From Africa.


Senegalese griot singer Aby Ngana Diop is the latest artist to be celebrated by Awesome Tapes from Africa. Something of a celebrity in her hometown of Dakar in the '80s and '90s, Diop (who passed away in 1997) was often the go-to performer for the city's politicians and officials. Using Tasuu (a Wolof-based fast-paced poetry), Liital, Diop's only album, is a beautifully ramshackled collection of songs, which was rereleased this month by Awesome Tapes.

Like Abbey Lincoln before her and Merril Garbus after her, Diop has an almost scarily fiery voice. It's less the sound of scorn, though, and more the intense yet playful chants of someone screaming their heart out. On the track "Dieuleul-Dieuleul," for example, Diop shouts the titular words (which mean "Take it, take it") with a passion as strong as the song's thick drums and as strangely calming as the shrill whistles behind her. "Sapaly," one of the album's closing pieces, is a bit slower, and perhaps even meditative, yet keeps Diop's signature beauty-yell. It's not surprising, then, that Tasuu, the vocal style Diop delivers throughout the album, is thought to be a precursor to rap; it has that same ferocity, the same uncomfortable comfort. Similar to Nas's Illmatic (1994) and FugeesThe Score (1996), Diop's Liiat thrills not only in its vocal mastery but in the mix of pain and joy behind it. 

Unique in Senegalese music for its conflation of traditional griot singing and mbalax (Senegal's national popular dance music), Liital is a near pioneering record. Diop's mad-happy voice is fascinating, though, and she holds her own as one of the fiercest artists to come out of Senegal. Listen to "Dieuleul-Dieuleul" off the record below. Liital is out now on LP/CD/MP3/Limited Edition Cassette via Awesome Tapes From Africa. Read more about Aby Ngana Diop over here.

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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

ProVerb’s Memoir Is A Huge Slap In The Face To South African Hip-Hop

In his memoir, one of South Africa's revered lyricists ProVerb and his co-author compromise his rich story with trite motivational talk.

The Book of Proverb

ProVerb has had a strange relationship with the SA hip-hop scene. Albeit being one of the most gifted lyricists the country has ever seen, he has grown to flow less and hustle more. Despite this, his name still comes up when the greatest (South) African rappers of all time are mentioned. MTV Base placed him as the 7th in their list of the greatest SA MCs of all time in 2018 for example.

The rapper-turned-media personality dedicates a paragraph of his memoir, The Book of Proverb, to explaining his complicated relationship with hip-hop. "Although I built my brand as a hip-hop artist, I never enjoyed full support or success from it," he writes. "Music is and always will remain a pass ion, but it stopped being viable when it stopped making business sense to me. If I was given more support, I might continue, but for now, I'll focus on my other hustles."

On the cover of the book which was released towards the end of 2020 by Penguin, Verb is wearing a charcoal blazer and sporting a white ball cap, so one can be forgiven for getting into it expecting both sides of his story. This memoir, however, is too vague to be a worthy read if you aren't necessarily reading to get motivated but to be simply informed and inspired.

While a few of The Book of ProVerb's chapters touch on his rap career, most of the book is about ProVerb the man, personality and businessman. Not so much one of the country's finest lyricists. This omission is a huge slap in the face for his fans and SA hip-hop fans in general.

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