Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Toumani

This week’s Song of the Week celebrates something quite special. Toumani Diabaté has been a Song of the Week regular since it started almost a year ago, and its no surprise – he has to be the most influential Malian musician of his age, perhaps only second to Ali Farka Touré. Toumani’s father, Sidiki, was also a great kora musician – or griot – as was his father before him. In fact, Diabaté musical heritage goes back 700 years. Toumani represents the 71st generation.

700 years. Its an astonishing amount of time and the sense of responsibility and pride that must accompany such history has never let a listener of Toumani’s music down. He has such incredible talent and grace behind the kora (a 21 string harp/lute instrument) and is widely regarded as the best player of the instrument in the world. However, the ultimate responsibility in any hereditary system is continuing the line, producing an apprentice to keep building on the family legacy. Therefore it is incredibly exciting that later this month Toumani Diabaté will be performing on stage at the Barbican here in London with his son Sidiki Diabaté.  The 72nd generation of this ancient musical bloodline will return to the UK for a 2nd time starting with a concert in Brighton. The pair arrive in London on the 30th for a gig that is bound to inspire and astound.

As this short documentary video explains, in 1987 Toumani Diabaté peformed at the Royal Festival Hall in London with his father, Sikidi (Senior). It was their first performance together. 25 years later, in 2013, Toumani performed the same gesture to his son, Sikidi (Junior) and successfully introduced the next generation of this precious griot family onto the world.

This week’s song of the week is a live performance lead by Toumani Diabaté from Cambridge Folk Festival 2007. This shows Toumani in full-flare and a glimpse of the excellence that the duo, father and son, master and apprentice, will delight to UK with on their upcoming tour.

Toumani Diabaté Symmetric Orchestra – Toumani

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