Quantity and Quality

Wasis Diop – Everything Is Never Quite Enough
Wasis Diop

Everything Is Never Quite Enough (Mercury France/Universal 077 396-2, 2003, distributed by Triloka Records)

The 1990s albums of Senegal’s Wasis Diop–HyenesNo Sant and Toxu–were the works of a fusion-minded visionary who combined West African foundational elements with shades of Latin, Arabic, jazz, blues and whatever else caught his fancy.

Living in Paris for many years enabled Diop to find multiple niches in that city’s cosmopolitan music scene, and he began to pave the way from versatile sideman (primarily on guitar) to versatile solo artist.

Concurrent collaborations included his hooking up with mad genius Lee Perry in Jamaica, saxophonist Tasauki Shimizu in Japan, North African vocalist Amina and his own filmmaker brother Djibril. Perhaps because Diop’s music is not as characteristically hard-hitting as many popular African styles and/or the fact that his albums were by and large not hyped or touted commercially, his career has been comparatively low-key even in world music terms.

Everything Is Never Quite Enoughcollects songs from all of Diop’s previous discs and is equally impressive as an introduction to his talents or a reminder of how good he can be (depending on if you got around to hearing those previous discs or not).

Diop sings in low tones, sometimes descending into a half-spoken whisper that not only creates a sense of intimacy but also ensures that enough of the listeners’ focus will be on how inventive and varied his song arrangements are. This includes the use of chugging acoustic atmospherics (“African Dream,” “Dune”), moody electronic textures (“Ramatu”), subtle m’balax rhythms (“Soweto Daal”), English-language vocal narratives (“No Sant,” the title track) and even the full re-Africanizing of a familiar song that had African roots to begin with (“DeFaal Lu Wor,” a version of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”). The songs are very much like musical mosaics- carefully pieced together, painstaking in their quest for beauty. That quest has thus far been a successful one for Wasis Diop, since this is very beautiful music indeed.

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