Kora Music from Toumani’s Pops

August 6, 2009

Yakhouba CissokhoI went to the Cité de la Musique yesterday to see my kora-player friend Yakhouba Cissokho, who was performing in the Musée (see photo). I also did an audio-guided tour of the museum, which has an incredibly comprehensive collection of instruments stretching back to the middle ages including an early banjo predecessor, the Haitian banza that banjo luthier Pete Ross makes reproductions of (I own one of his mandé banzas). The only thing I thought strange about the museum was the lack of actual banjos and other American folk instruments…
Seeing Yak inspired me to post the ancient, haunting, ethereal sounds of West African griot music, which has the for the past several years undergone a major renaissance of sorts boosted by the widening interest in world music. I find it beautiful, heavenly, meditative. It slips into my subconscious and I tend to just float away.
Though I have lots of modern kora music, I chose this track by Sidiki Diabate, the famous Toumani‘s father, as it was recorded in the 60s and is more difficult to find. Sidiki, Yak tells me, is considered along with his own father, to be among the kings of the kora who helped lay the groundwork for the next generations of griots to take the world music scene by storm. My fiancée picked up his cd, Batogoma, on a trip to Bamako a couple of years ago. Little did she know that it is incredibly difficult to purchase elsewhere. (On a side note, Yakhouba and three other griots will be performing at our wedding in September). The cd features Sidiki and his ensemble, which comprises the balafon and singers. I’m not the biggest fan of the singing in griot music, so I posted an instrumental. You can get another cd of Sidiki’s music here
Interesting factoids from Yakhouba:
-the kora is originally from the Gambia (where Yak is from), and made its way to Bamako in the 1930s)
-my friend the Malian Mamadou Diabate was apparently so good at such a young age that his cousin Toumani suggested he move to the US to stake out his own territory.

Sackodugu Instrumental by Sidiki Diabate and Ensemble

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One Response to “Kora Music from Toumani’s Pops”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Gorgeous. Some of the harmonies remind me a little of European medieval music, before the rules of tonal harmonies became entrenched. Also, my wife just walked over and commented on how beautiful this music is.


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