Best Group: Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté
Album: Toumani & Sidiki on World Circuit
The African griot tradition of handing ancient musical skills down from father to son was shown to be alive and well on a sparkling collection of kora duets between Toumani Diabaté, the acknowledged poet laureate of the instrument who can trace his ancestry back through 71 generations of hereditary musicians, and the latest branch of the family tree, his 23-year-old son Sidiki.
The younger Diabaté has made something of a name for himself in Mali as a hip-hop producer, but he's also absorbed the ancient oral traditions of the Mande people and developed a fluent, virtuoso style of his own. Together father and son crafted an album of rich diversity, the kora's trademark sound given a markedly different nuance of tone and character on almost every track.
Changes of rhythm or tempo convey contrasting moods - reflective, energetic, hypnotic, graceful, dynamic - although who is playing what is not easy to discern, so intricately are the strings of father and son interwoven in an exquisite tapestry, every thread perfectly chosen in the pursuit of perfection.