Tag Archives: Toumani Diabate

Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté – Lampedusa : Mali Song of the Week

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.

Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté – Lampedusa

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 sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. 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.

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio : Mali Song of the Week

Quite a tragic choice of song considering this week’s subject matter. The music itself is triumphant, relentless – a Malian griot’s response to “We Will Rock You” but with Freddie Mercury’s half-rap substituted for cascading, whirling, soaring kora, spellbinding vocals with that stadium-thumping beat. Triumphant is definitely the spirit of today as the music world celebrates the symbolic importance and the outright splendour of Bamako’s first major international music festival since le crise in 2012 – the Festival Acoustik de Bamako.

But why tragic? Well that lies in the tale of ‘Mali Sadio’, an old Malian story passed down generations through oral traditions. It details the friendship (borderlind love affair, in some versions) between a woman and a hippopotamus. A hunter, becoming infatuated with the woman, kills her friend the hippo, but – unsurprisingly – finds her not more amiable than before. Disastrously for the woman’s village, it turns out that the hippo was doing a very good job of keeping the dangers of the natural world away – a security now lost and terror ensues. The moral of the story: “the selfish actions of a single person bring pain and hardship on many others“.

Bamako knows plenty about that. So perhaps the story is fitting – a celebration, a mass outpouring of delight between peoples when they find music, their “guardian hippo” (I am sure that’s a thing), alive and well. In fact, its full of youth and life with rap stars and local talent . The festival was masterminded by Toumani Diabaté, organised by Fatoumata Sow, and championed by Culture Minister N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo. Minister Diallo explains that Mali’s music is its chief export its “our oil”. It is also more than that its the best channel Mali has open to the world to say “hey, we’re here. We are still living”. Its a brave shout with an official State of Emergency enduring. Anyone who is anyone in Malian music seemed to have been there. Associated musicians and collaborators too – like Derek Gripper, Tony Allan,  and Damon Albarn – ‘defied terrorism threats‘ to be there, the former using his classical guitar skills to emulate in tribute to Diabaté’s exceptional kora. Of course, Toumani Diabaté is top of the pile and thus unemulatable – if you want to bathe in his majesty you have to go to the man himself, hence this week’s choice. A choice that certainly wants to bring attention to Diabaté’s lesser known work with his Symmetric Orchestra who headlined the Festival’s Friday line-up.

The people of Bamako will be delighted to have the State of Emergency swapped for a state of euphoria – albeit temporarily. The sense of normality with people out in the streets, enjoying the music, with international stars and media coming and going safely is far more significant. Bamako and the world has obviously enjoyed the success of the occasion. But what of the rest of Mali? Inclusiveness was emphasised in the event’s organisation – artists from the north were there but none of them Toureg, apparently. This suggests that despite the best efforts of  Mali’s heroes, its people, its government, and the world – the country remains fractured, inaccessible and frayed. Not helplessly, but simply still. 

The festival has to be taken for what it is. A great leap forward. An oasis in an conflict that still has no end in sight. An expression of unity, peace and communal joy counter to those selfish acts that have brought so much pain and hardship to ordinary people all over Mali.

 

 

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio

 

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 sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. 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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra & Toumani Diabaté – Kaira

Celebrating the collaborations between Malian artists and those around the world is a popular topic here on the Hub. Much has been made of the link between Malian music and that of American blues. Looking into this relationship reveals a dark explanation rooted in the murderous, mass upheaval of millions – entire African tribes and societies – through the slave trade of the European colonial era. Similarly, links with Caribbean nations, Cuba in particular, have been noted through AfroCubism and the 1970s experimentations of the Rail Band.

One continent remains relatively unexplored in this regard by the Hub. In the 315 years between 1500 and 1815 the Portuguese Empire transported 3 million Africans (over half perishing in transit or shortly after) to their Brazilian colony in South America. Inspecting the musical consequences – possibly the least dreadful and most joyous of all the consequences – of this devastating period of human history is long overdue. Enter singer and poet Arnaldo Antunes and rock guitarist Edgard Scandurra; two Brazilians who one day got the invite by Toumani to do a concert with him. This marvellous article by Dave Stelfox charts this coming together:

“The rehearsal was the very first time we had ever met” explains Arnaldo “but when we started to play together [there was] a magical synergy between us. At the end, Toumani said: ‘We need to make a record together – you need to come to Mali.’ Edgar and I already had a plan to work together anyway, so we thought, ‘Why not … we can just include Toumani in that project, too.’ Soon after we made that decision we were all in Bamako making the album.”

A story we’ve heard countless times before – Malian musicians would probably make the best diplomats in the world. They have a phenomenal track-record for seamless integration into other cultures through projects, ‘supergroups’, albums, recordings, live performances, improvisations and the rest. Stelfox presses on for an explanation for all this and finds that Brazil also has a wonderful philosophy, borne out of strife and necessity of its history, that has set its musical culture in a similar position to that of Mali. Brazilian music is wholly comfortable, if not at its best, when it is in the process of absorbing, exploring and championing another. Stelfox points to the works of Brazil’s great poet Oswald de Andrade who in 1928:

“…wrote a short text asserting that Brazil’s greatest weapon in the battle against post-colonial European dominance was antropofagia, its ability to “cannibalise” diverse influences into “one participating consciousness”.”

Remarkable words and a beautiful sentiment. And its true. It is a reflection of the indomitable pride shown in all of history’s great resistance movements and its must be a proud tradition for Antunes and Scandurra to uphold. This brings us neatly onto this week’s Song. This is the most ‘Malian’ feeling track of the project; a Portuguese lyric-d, “radically altered“, re-work of a Diabaté song by the same name. It’s delightful, “charming” and exhibits some splendid balafon work, as well as mixed Brazilian-Malian vocals – the soaring, wailing voice of Safiatou Diabaté (the wife of Toumani’s younger brother Mamadou) combining with the husky, singer-songwriter sounds of Arnaldo Antunes.

 

 

Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra & Toumani Diabaté – Kaira

 

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 sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. 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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

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.

 

 

Sidiki Diabaté & Djelimady Sissoko – The Sunjata Epic

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Kassé Mady Diabaté – Fununke Saya

As summer hots up so does excitement over the UK’s season of music and performing arts festivals. At two festival’s in particular – Glastonbury and Womad – it is cheering to see Malian musicians featuring prominently once more. However instead of concentrating on Hub favourites Songhoy Blues and Tinariwen (there will be plenty of time for this) instead we have a Hub début for Kassé Mady Diabaté.

Though apparently not a relation, Diabaté is similar in sound to Toumani Diabate. Indeed, as Youtube poster WitnessTheDivine writes, Toumani and Kassé have crossed paths on a several occasions, including on the Spanish Flamenco West African collaborative project Songhai where Kassé is credited as a vocalist alongside composer Toumani’s kora. Other featured big hitters are ngoni master Bassekou Kouyate and legendary producer Lucy Duran.  You can’t be half-bad if you keep such esteemed company.

Overwhelming is the temptation therefore to rush to Womad to see Kassé in action “under the stars”. A bio on the festival reads on:

“Of Kassé Mady’s most recent album, last year’s loudly applauded Kiriké, cultural review website The Arts Desk got it absolutely spot-on when they declared that it was “like sitting in a Bamako compound, late at night, under the stars, and being sung to, person to person”.”

Best way to see him ‘person to person’ this summer? See you at Womad!

 

 

Kassé Mady Diabaté – Fununke Saya

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Toumani Diabaté – Elyne Road 

Its been a while since we had a song from a Hub favourite, Toumani Diabate. Last time, we were at the height of summer. Now we are in the depths of a British winter: dark, wet, and cold. Toumani’s soothing, expert kora playing should carry you far away from the howling gales and misery that lie beyond your windows.

However, this week’s song of the week was recorded a little closer to home than you might expect. This excellent review of the album The Mandé Variations by Robin Denselow explains all:

“A noisy wedding got underway at the Hotel Mandé during Diabaté’s first attempt to record The Mandé Variations. So he and his producer, Nick Gold, moved the session to north London, to a little studio in Wood Green, where they recorded the album in just two hours. It’s a gentle, experimental record, taking in both ancient themes – as on the track Djourou Kara Nany, which, Diabaté says, “makes use of a song about Mandé history, from Sunjata’s time” – and new praise songs, always a crucial part of a griot’s repertoire. Two of these are named after London streets that are home to those who have helped his career. One such track, Elyne Road (in honour of [Nick] Gold and his family) includes echoes of an old UB40 song, “because I remember the melody from when I first came to London”.

Diabaté’s aim with the album is to make western audiences rethink their idea of African music. “Most people think that Africa doesn’t have classical music,” he says. “They think of Africa as having just dance and percussion – talking drums and calabash – but we have lots of music that’s not percussion. People don’t know that the kora is a great classical instrument.””

Step by step, song by song, week by week, we hope we are letting more people know about the delights, sophistication and history of Malian music.

 

 

Toumani Diabaté – Elyne Road

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Toumani & Sidiki Diabate – Rachid Ouiguini

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Toumani & Sidiki perform on the world famous Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival, 2014

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.

Toumani & Sidiki Diabate – Rachid Ouiguini

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby

This week’s track comes from a special collaboration between the two greats of Malian music, Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté. The album entitled Ali and Toumani containing this week’s track was released in 2010 and was Ali’s last studio album, it being released 4 years after his death.

Here in a review by Nonesuch Records, Diabaté talks about his relationship with Touré and the music they made together. It is taken from a conversation with and edited by Andy Morgan:

“When you’re listening to this album it’s like you’re reading a book about Ali. The album was going to be a summing up of all the albums that Ali had done in the past. It wasn’t about covering old songs just because there weren’t any new ones, no not at all. It was about revealing all the different possibilities once again. It was the very last album he made.”

So the song Ruby is the first track on the final musical adventure of Ali Farka Touré. It must be remembered that Toumani and Ali come from different parts of Mali and two very different musical backgrounds. During the recording of the album Ali was very ill and battled to keep playing. This didn’t stop him mastering the griot songs that Toumani taught him, which were a foreign style to Ali. However, to honour the great man, Ruby has been selected as this week’s song of the week. Producer Nick Gold explains why this song is important:

“This is how Ali played alone in private. If he played to himself and you happened to be in the room with him, he would touch the guitar very softly. It was beautiful to watch. But when he got into the studio, the volume was upped by 10!! But this time he didn’t do that. “Ruby” is a Bobo song that Ali had heard in San, a village on the road to his home in Niafunke. It must have been a completely new tune to Toumani. A lot of this repertoire was new to him.

My 5 year old daughter Ruby and I were sat on the floor at Ali’s feet for this. Because the kora is such a quiet instrument, you have to be very still when it’s being recorded. Any creak or breath can be heard. We held our breath through much of the song. When it was over I asked “What’s that one called?” And Ali just looked at Ruby and said, “Ruby!”

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby

 

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