When Alpha YaYa Diallo was a young boy learning the guitar, his house was often the gathering place for many kids in the neighbourhood.
“When I was learning the guitar all the children came around me,” Diallo told the News Bulletin about his early days learning the guitar in West Africa. “They spent all day there and my mom was always cooking too much [food] for everybody.”
Although he couldn’t have known it then, Diallo’s guitar playing would eventually attract crowds of complete strangers, Peter Gabriel’s label, Real World Records and many other music professionals.
“My dream was to play the guitar,” Diallo said. “It was a dream come true.”
Tonight, Diallo, who has previously played at the Port Theatre and the Queen’s, will be making his first-ever performance at the Dinghy Dock Pub at 8:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be an acoustic show,” Diallo said. “It’s exciting. Any kind of show I do I am excited.”
Diallo, was born in the Republic of Guinea and moved frequently as a child.
“My father was a doctor and he was moving around the country,” Diallo said. “They moved him from one province to another to another.”
Diallo taught himself the guitar when he was seven years old and became the envy of many children his age.
“I could play only two notes and I was kind of popular,” Diallo recalled, laughing.
He eventually moved to Europe to pursue a post-secondary education and joined Fatala, a Paris-based group that was signed with Real World Records.
“It was tough at first,” Diallo said about relocating to Europe. “But the music talked for us and I made a lot of friends.”
In 1991, Diallo decided to move to North Vancouver and two years later he released his first solo record, Nene. He would then go on to release four more albums over the next decade, including The Message and The Journey, which both won Juno Awards for Best Global Album in 1998 and 2002.
“I never thought I would win an award in Canada,” Diallo said. “There are a lot of talented musicians all over Canada.”
Diallo’s most recent album, Mosulu, was released last November and is a collaboration with Montreal’s Quicksound and Sam Screncid.
“It has more of an electronic beat,” Diallo said about Mosulu.
Diallo, who has also spent time as a member of Juno Award-winning group African Guitar Summit, created a documentary called Best of Both Worlds, which looks at his life in Canada, West Africa and France.
“It going back and shooting the documentary was good because it showed … the places where I used to play and places of my childhood,” he said.
When he looks back at his career, he credits music for allowing him to see and experience the world.
“I would never know Europe or I would have never come to Canada,” Diallo said. “Music has brought me here. I came here because of music.”
Diallo plays with Oscar Clemotte and Eric Harper at the Dinghy Dock Pub tonight, with the show starting at 7 p.m. For information, please visit www.dinghydockpub.com.