Guitarist and singer Alpha Yaya Diallo, from Guinea in West Africa, is one of the hottest acts on the current world music scene. Now based in Vancouver, he's earned a matchless reputation internationally for the excellence of his musicianship and the excitement of his live shows - whether performing solo or with his Afro-funk band Bafing.
Diallo is a uniquely multi-talented artist. His dexterous acoustic and electric guitar-playing, with its fluid melodic lines and compelling grooves, places him in the front ranks of African axemen. In addition he is a skilled and experienced performer on a variety of percussion instruments, and on the balafon (a wooden xylophone). To complete the embarrassment of riches Diallo writes his own songs, and his voice has a beautifully modulated edge.
By seamlessly uniting the traditional and the contemporary, Diallo has succeeded in carving a niche for himself beside such West African luminaries as Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Youssou N'Dour, and Ismael Lo. But, if anything, the blend of musical elements to be found in Diallo's work is even richer and more diverse, a heritage from his childhood years.
His father worked as a doctor-surgeon, frequently on the move with his family. Growing up in a number of regions of Guinea, Diallo was accordingly exposed to a variety of cultures. He absorbed musical traditions from the Malenke, Sousou, and his own Foulah people. In addition he spent time in neighbouring Senegal, where his mother has relatives, picking up the popular and powerful mbalax rhythm - as well as influences from Cape Verde and the Caribbean.
A self-taught musician, Diallo possesses a fine ear and quickly learned how to transpose for guitar the melodic and rhythmic patterns he heard played on indigenous Guinean instruments. He was already in great demand as a musician while at school and university, performing with such bands as The Sons of Ra'is, and Syli Authentique.
Eventually Diallo found the opportunity to move to Europe, and became a member of Fatala - a group of West African musicians recording for Peter Gabriel's Real World label.
Fatala travelled widely, appearing at many festivals throughout Western Europe, including the prestigious WOMAD Festival outside London, and the Festival d'Angoulème in France. After the band's North American tour in 1991 Diallo decided to stay, and settled on the West Coast.