Everyone’s Talking About Massamba


Though his performance was only an hour, Massamba Diop’s visit to campus is still resonating.

As a part of  Williston’s observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the community was treated with an outstanding performance by Massamba Diop and his ensemble. Diop is a world-renowned master of the tama, a talking drum from Senegal, West Africa known for its replication of human sounds.

Diop’s visible mastery and the significant role of the talking drum in many African cultures resulted in Swedish composer, Ludwig Gorensson, recruiting him for the distinguished score of Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Before his feature in the 2022 superhero action film, Diop made his musical claim-to-fame as a founding member of the band Daande Lenol (The Voice of the People). Alongside Diop, the group included esteemed Sengalese musician Baaba Maal. Over the past decades, this group has traveled the world, released dozens of notable albums, and transformed the global music scene; the group’s album “Firin in Fouta,” was nominated for a Grammy award in 1996.

Not only has Diop worked with his own band and crafted widely acclaimed hits, but he has worked closely with famous artists such as James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, and Harry Belafonte.

The Williston community can thank three-year senior Siga Pouye for making this day possible. Siga and her family are close friends of Diop, and as he so lovingly puts it on stage, after inviting her up in front of the whole school, “she is like my niece.”

“Bringing Massamba to campus was possible with the help of Ms. [Nikki] Chambers who helped with the coordination and communication,” Siga told The Willistonian. “The idea originally came to me in a BSU [Black Student Union] meeting when the group was talking about the new “Black Panther” movie. My dad had recently sent me photos of Massamba meeting the actors from the movie as well as a screenshot of him in one of the scenes. I was thinking about how special of an opportunity it would be to share my African culture with the school especially with the new movie just coming out.”

Siga said the “Black Panther” franchise has been especially meaningful to the Black community, and Siga was eager to give students a glimpse into that same cultural sound Diop was able to lend to the movie.

After coordinating with Chambers, the school extended the invitation for Diop to perform at the Jan. 16 assembly.

“I was worried people would judge and think it was weird because the tama [the talking drum] has such a unique sound,” Siga said. “I’m incredibly grateful for how well the school accepted Massamba at the assembly and for how much fun everyone had!”

Williston senior, Max Graff was inspired by Diop’s crowd-rallying show, motivating him to participate in post-concert question-and-answer segment. Impressed by his energy, Diop invited Max to accompany his dancing on stage.

“It felt like a normal Williston assembly at first,” Max said. “However, as it continued, Massamba’s energy pulled me in. The way he interacted with the crowd through rhythmic hand movement really excited me. Whenever Williston hosts an assembly like that, I am more inclined to participate and interact with the performer.”

Not only does Diop travel the world sharing his beautiful sound, but also co-founded a cultural exchange program.

“In 1993, Massamba Diop and American percussionist Tony Vacca co-founded the Senegal-America project, a grassroots cultural exchange program which has sponsored various educational, health care, and artistic initiatives in Senegal, and has provided an important venue for African musicians in the States. Diop and Vacca tour each year with a variety of performances, school programs, and workshops, from their Northampton, Mass., base,” according to Diop’s bio on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra website.