Djoss Diabaté has arrived. Though this powerhouse singer is no newcomer to commercial recordings and concert performances, Haklima both announces and confirms his artistic arrival as a long-awaited African star. With his spectacular voice and superb musical crew of griots and jazzmen, Djoss delivers a delightful masterpiece of modern Mande music with a heavy dose of multicultural savvy and spirit.
Born to a griot family in the town of Kela, Mali in 1956, Djoss Abdoulaye Diabaté, learned the art of jeliya quite naturally. Jeliya, the Manding word for all that goes into being a griot musical artist, demands a deeply sophisticated mastery of verbal and vocal performance. At age 46, Djoss Diabaté has finally emerged as one of the hottest griot stars . . . and from the heart of no where else but New York City.
By the time Djoss set out for Abidjan at age eighteen, the young man was already an accomplished guitarist and singer. Having left village life for good, he landed his first gig as a back-up singer for Abdoulaye Diabaté and his hugely successful pop band from Koutialla called Koulé Star in 1974. The following year Djoss moved to the bustling city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he made a professional career for a decade as founder and chef d'orchestre of Super Mande, a popular 10-piece dance band. Djoss made his first solo album during this time, Wahabiya Ke Daci.
Diabaté moved to New York City in 1986. In recent years, Djoss's gorgeous voice can be heard on the commercial recordings of many other artists, sometimes as a guest soloist or as background vocals. In 2002, several of his songs were featured on the Smithsonian Folkways compilation: Badenya, Manden Jaliya in New York City, and he graces the cover of the album with his charismatic, signature smile. Again, in 2003 his song "Fakoli" appeared in another highly acclaimed Smithsonian Folkways' CD compilation Mali Lolo!: Stars of Mali.
Haklima is only Djoss's second solo album but it is, nonetheless, a landmark for next- generation griots in West African music. Key ingredients to his unique sound and style include the musical arrangements of Ivorian keyboard wiz Azouhouni Adou who packs musical surprises into every song. Listen for interesting modulations, unanticipated key changes, beatiful improvisational solos, and infectious breaks and hooks. Never mind if the instrument is a modern keyboard bass or a traditional flute, kora, or balafon! Adou crosses boundaries and pushes envelopes in ways that only the most accomplished musicians can handle. And with New York's finest players featured on these tracks, no one disappoints.
Another key to his unique sound is, of course, Djoss's compelling and distinctive voice. Strong, fast-moving yet perfectly controlled, and exquisitely broad in range and timbre, his voice is unparalleled. Djoss's lyrics and repertoire are also special because they closely reflect his personal journeys through life. His introspective look at the common practice of domestic abuse in Fasoka, or his style in Sinikan that recalls his old Koulé Star days in Mali. All in all, Haklima captures a special beauty of motion in sound that parallels the motion of Djoss's own journeys through life. High above the lively cross currents of the Niger River, the busy cross-glare of strangers' eyes or headlights in the streets of Abidjan or Harlem, his voice soars with graceful power and elegance. Djoss Diabaté has arrived: a mature and magnificently multicultural griot.