From Mozambique to Nigeria to Ethiopia, many African pop artists use Western instruments exclusively. They're still embracing African rhythms, but they use western instruments to play them and exclude traditional African instruments like the kora (a string instrument with a harp-like sound), the mbira (one of Africa's various thumb pianos), and the kalimba. Vieux Diop, however, is among the African pop vocalists who favors a combination of African and Western instruments. On 2000's Afrika Wassa, the kora and other traditional African instruments interact with the drums, bass, and guitar. A native of Senegal who has lived in the U.S. since 1984, Diop is no stranger to multiculturalism -- on Afrika Wassa, he sings in Senegalese languages as well as English and French. His style of African pop isn't hyper and ultra-exuberant a la soukous, makossa, and zouk -- nor is it moody, smoky and jazz-influenced like a lot of Ethiopian and Sudanese pop. Rather, Diop goes for a gentle, relaxed, reflective approach and sometimes incorporates elements of American folk. Afrika Wassa isn't for dancing; it's best to sit down and listen to this charming, heartfelt CD.
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