Gently does it. What’s the rush? Come on, treat yourself to the grand-master of the serene and his son in this sensational duet. The double-kora combines like a pair of butterflies dancing in the breeze, the feather-like strums light enough to float on air. The song blooms and busies itself with the intricate, cascading melodies the kora – especially when under the thumbs of a Diabaté – are known for. But all the while, the song remains sturdy. It eases up periodically, flowing into a chorus of sorts. Achingly so. Where the silences between the notes create the effect. In fact it is these sudden, tiny, absences, the cold gaps in the sunlight, that define the song. You urge it on; hoping to return to the pleasant melodies.
Instead it peters out, returning home. To nothing.
Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.
To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.
The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.
Sidiki Diabaté & Djelimady Sissoko – The Sunjata Epic
Over this weekend the Southbank Centre in London held Africa Utopia – three days of music, literature, art, fashion and discussion from the African continent and the diaspora. The festival, in its third year, took over most of the riverside Centre with ticketed concerts, fashion shows, pop-up food outlets, hairdressing, market stalls, seminars and speeches all rounded off with a collaborative musical finale performance orchestrated by drum legend Tony Allen. Is this African utopia Malian musicians featured prominently – notably with father and son duo Sidiki and Toumani Diabaté, but also with Malian-born French hip-hop artist Oxmo who impressed. Baaba Maal of Senegal (though he continually alluded to a pan-African view in mini-speeches throughout) was active and energetic as ever. Damon Albarn characteristically showed no such humility and roamed on his own-accord from instrument to instrument all evening.
Pleasingly, Toumani and Sidiki blew the audience away. The kora proved its versatility and agility its is ability to rouse the crowd on its own, in duet, or with the rest of the jazz/afro-beat ensemble playing along too. This week’s Song of the Week brings things full-circle and celebrate’s the work of Sidiki Diabaté the elder – Toumani’s father. The song refers to Sunjata Keita founder of the Malian Empire in 1235 and it really is epic; rolling in at 30 minutes and 34 seconds. We have written previously about Toumani Diabaté’s appreciation of Malian history and especially his desire to overturn some widely held prejudices about the sophistication of African music, poetry and literature. This weekend he showed his best to an audience that needed little persuasion in taking up his message.
It appears his father “the King of Kora” had the same respect and came up with the idea of bringing this message to the banks of the River Thames. This week’s song comes from a live performance at the Southbank Centre in 1987 – 28 years before his son and grandson did the same.
This week we serve up another song from Vieux Farka Toure’s 2013 album ‘Mon Pays’. This time its the turn of the song ‘Future’ – one of many exceptionally good songs to come from that release. In this fun and fast paced song, Vieux plays alongside young kora prodigy Sidiki Diabate – someone who personally embodies the Malian “future”. Sidiki is the son of Toumani Diabate, the 71st member of a history-long tradition of passing down musical and artistic talent through generations. 700 years of history lies behind Sidiki, but his youth and success combined with the precarious situation in Mali means that his life itself is a delicate link, weighed with massive responsibility to continue this remarkable legacy.
Whether Sidiki senses such responsibility is hard to gauge; his music resonates such calm and grace, it is hard to imagine anyone with the ability to produce such beauty could be anything but completely at-ease with themselves and the world they have around them.
What sounds better than a kora? Two koras! Here at the Hub we are big fans of father-son double act Toumani and Sidiki Diabate. This week’s song of the week comes from the first album the pair have released together. In another first – and according to the Festival itself- Tomani and Sidiki are the first father and son to perform on the Pyramid Stage together [pictured]. The video below is taken from a BBC broadcast in a fine Glastonbury Sunday morning just before their spellbinding set. This photo of the Glastonbury crowd posted to Toumani’s Facebook page shows just how well received their performance was.
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.