King Of The Kora: An Introduction
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Twice Grammy-nominated, Toumani Diabaté is one of the most important musicians in contemporary African music. He plays the kora, a harp unique to West Africa with 21 strings. His most recent album “The Mande Variations” (World Circuit Records) is one of the best-selling recent world music records having sold over 13,000 units in the UK alone since it’s release in February 2008.
“King of the kora” collects together the most interesting pieces from Diabaté’s first six albums: “Kaira” (1988), “Songhai (with Ketama and Danny Thompson)” (1988), “Songhai 2 (with Ketama and Danny Thompson)” (1994), “Djelika” (1995), “New Ancient Strings (with Ballaké Sissoko)” (1999) and “Kulanjan (with Taj Mahal)” (1999). “King of the Kora” also features 2 collaborative pieces that have not appeared on any Toumani Diabaté album: “Diabaté” with Ali Farka Toure’s son Vieux Farka Toure and “Kanou” with kora player Ballaké Sissoko.
“King of the Kora” features both sublime solo pieces in the style of his latest album “The Mande Variations” as well as the collaborative pieces with flamenco act Ketama, US blues guitarist Taj Mahal and kora player Ballaké Sissoko which first brought him to the world’s attention in the 1990s.
Diabaté was born in Bamako, the capital of Mali, in 1965 into a family of exceptional griots: his research shows 71 generations of kora players from father to son. Diabaté was however self-taught, never learning directly from his father except by listening.
This album is the most comprehensive overview yet of the most important and influential musician working in African music today. It was compiled by Nigel Williamson, Contributing Editor to Songlines magazine who also wrote the accompanying sleeve-notes.
|| ||Alla L’aa Ke|
|| ||Mani Mani Kuru (with Ketama)|
|| ||Africa (with Ketama)|
|| ||A Toumani (with Ketama)|
|| ||Sute Manebo (with Ketama)|
|| ||Niani (with Ketama)|
|| ||Ndia (with Ketama)|
|| ||Aminata Santoro|
|| ||Bi Lamban (with Ballaké Sissoko)|
|| ||Kita Kaira (with Ballaké Sissoko)|
|| ||Bafoulabe (with Ballaké Sissoko|
|| ||Queen Bee (with Taj Mahal)|
|| ||Kulanjan (with Taj Mahal)|
|| ||Mississippi-Mali Blues (with Taj Mahal)|
|| ||Fanta (with Taj Mahal)|
|| ||Kanou (Ballaké Sissoko feat. Toumani Diabaté)|
|| ||Diabaté (Vieux Farka Touré feat.Toumani Diabaté)|
Songlines, October 09
“Career summary for griot royalty”
Toumani Diabaté is rightly acknowledged not just as the king of the kora, the classical West African harp-lute, but as one of the finest and most versatile musicians on the continent, if not the world. He has rightly been praised for his latest solo set, The Mande Variations, for his rousing and experimental work with his Symmetric Orchestra, and of course for that timeless classic In The Heart Of The Moon, which he recorded with the late Ali Farka Touré. Chances are, most Songlines readers will own at least one, if not all, of those albums, but this is a chance to catch up on his excellent earlier work, some of which appeared only on vinyl.
Most of the material here was originally released between 1988 and 1999, and the first CD starts with ‘Jarabi’, a fine, stately track from his 1988 solo set Kaira – amazingly, the only solo album he recorded before releasing The Mande Variations last year. Like that classic album it was recorded in a London studio in a remarkably short time – just one afternoon. Then there are tracks from the 1995 Djelika album, recorded with Keletigui Diabaté on balafon and ngoni work from Bassekou Kouyaté, then little known outside Mali. Best of all are the tracks he recorded with another fine kora player, Ballaké Sissoko, including pieces from their 1999 New Ancient Strings set and the exquisite, hypnotic and virtuoso Kanou, which appeared on Sissoko’s 2005 album, Tomoro. The second CD deomonstrates Toumani’s often more experimental work as an accompanist, playing with musicians from beyond Africa. There’s no sign of his collaboration with Björk, but there are songs recorded with the Spanish flamenco exponents Ketama, which still sound remarkably fresh, and of course there are tracks from the celebrated Kulanjan set he recorded with Taj Mahal, mixing Malian and African-American songs. This is a quite brilliant double album.
Mojo, August 09
Subtitled An Introduction, this excellent, concise 2-CD primer on the Malian kora virtuoso offers nine tracks off his first six LPs plus 11 cross-cultural pieces with Taj Mahal, Danny Thompson, etc.