Africa’s destruction saddens artist
Three-time Juno Award winning performer Alpha Yaya Diallo was shocked to discover that you can’t go home again when he returned recently to his native Guinea.
The trees he remembered from childhood are mostly gone, said Diallo, who doesn’t blame industrialization as much as ignorance.
The world-beat singer/guitarist believes people of his West African homeland are chopping them down for firewood and clearing forests for agriculture and failing to do any replanting.
Dams have also turned Guinea’s rivers into mere trickles, or caused the water bodies to dry up altogether, added Diallo, who performs Monday at The Matchbox in Red Deer.
“Rivers don’t exist where I used to go swimming. And where I used to go fishing, the levels of water are so down it’s damaging the environment.”
The 47-year-old, who immigrated to Canada in 1991, credits developing countries for at least trying to preserve nature by replanting in deforested areas. “In Africa, there is only destroying. No fixing. And that’s sad.”
Diallo was moved to record lyrics written by East Indian environmental journalist Sanjay Khanna in the hope they would educate and spread environmental awareness throughout the world.
The resulting song, Climate is the Heart — which features some fairly rare English as well as African singing by Diallo — was selected for the David Suzuki Foundation’s Playlist for the planet.
The album released last month through iTunes also included green-themes songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Joel Plaskett, Bruce Cockburn, Randy Bachman, Tom Jackson, Johnny Reid, the Trews, and Great Big Sea. Songs from new performers across Canada were included as well after a talent search through CBC Radio 3.
Climate is the Heart is also on Diallo’s latest album, Imme, (which means Get Up) and includes tunes that are a musical hybrid the guitarist calls Afro-Celtic.
Diallo, the son of a doctor-surgeon, has mixed traditional African music with Western instruments, such as the violin and cello.
“I always loved Irish music because it’s so similar to the music of my Foulani people,” explained the singer, who added the ethnic African music also uses a lot of flutes, is written in six-eight time, and incorporates instruments that sound something like the violin and accordion.
“There are always different elements in my music, some solos, some dance-able songs. It’s an energetic album, Diallo said of Imme.
The Vancouver-based performer, who has two preschool sons with his nurse wife and a 19-year-old son from a previous relationship, is appreciating recent forays into performing music for movie soundtracks — because they reduce the need for multiple tours around this immense nation.
Diallo is featured on soundtracks for the Oscar-nominated District 9, Rendition, and a new film called High Chicago.
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are $35 from the Matchbox box office.