Massamba Diop is one the most renowned masters of the tama, a “talking drum” from Senegal known for its ability to imitate the sounds of human speech. Before the advent of telephones and radio, it was the tama that announced important events and sent messages between villages. Recognizing the central role talking drums play in African cultures, composer Ludwig Göransson decided to put it — and Diop — front and center in his Oscar-winning score for Black Panther. Diop now tours as the featured soloist for Black Panther in Concert, racking up more than 60 appearances to date, performing alongside top-tier orchestras at world-class venues such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, Taiwan’s National Concert Hall, and Sydney’s Opera House. Diop also appeared on-screen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and contributed to its score.
Long before becoming the sound of King T’Challa, Diop was a stalwart of the world music scene. For four decades he has backed Senegalese singer Baaba Maal. Diop has recorded and performed with greats including Mumford & Sons, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Peter Gabriel, and has made several appearances with Playing for Change’s Songs Around the World. Diop is a Remo Percussion artist and helped them design the first mass-produced tama available to the public.
In 1993 Massamba Diop and percussionist Tony Vacca co-founded the Senegal-America project, a grassroots cultural exchange program sponsoring various educational, healthcare, and artistic initiatives on both continents. The two regularly tour with a variety of school programs from their base in Northampton, Massachusetts. Diop’s other regular collaborators include Surabhi Ensemble (in Chicago, Illinois), Walo Walo (Portland, Oregon), and Total Rhythm (San Francisco, California). He currently calls Columbus, Ohio, home.