Massamba Diop is one the most renowned masters of the tama, a talking drum from Senegal, known for its ability to replicate the sound of human speech. Before the advent of the telephone and radio, the tama announced important events and sent messages between villages. Recognizing the central role talking drums play in African cultures, Ludwig Görensson decided to put it, and Mr. Diop, front-and-center in the Oscar-winning score for Black Panther.
But long before garnering widespread attention as the sound of King T’Challa, Mr. Diop was already a stalwart of the world music scene. For four decades he has toured alongside Baaba Maal, receiving a Grammy nomination for their album Firin’ in Fouta. He has recorded and performed with James Brown, Mumford & Sons, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Carlinhos Brown. He also appeared on Peter Gabriel’s landmark release, Passion, which won a Grammy, and has made several appearances with Playing for Change’s “songs around the world.” Mr. Diop is a Remo Percussion endorsed artist, and in 2016 helped design and launch the Tamani Talking Drum, the first mass-produced tama available to the public.
In 1993, Mr. Diop and percussionist Tony Vacca co-founded the Senegal-America Project, a grassroots cultural exchange sponsoring educational, healthcare, and artistic initiatives on both continents. Other regular collaborators include Surabhi Ensemble in Chicago; Walo Walo in Portland, Oregon; and Total Rhythm in San Francisco.