Tutku Barbaros attends the launch of Kadialy Kouyaté’s new album, Na Kitabo, at London’s Rich Mix
In his interview on BBC Africa, Kadialy Kouyaté talks of his role as an artist: “we have a responsibility to contribute to peace, to bring people together.” Hosting the launch of his latest album Na Kitabo at the ever vibrant Rich Mix reflected this sentiment beautifully, as audience members of all walks of life listened to the serenity of his music, moved by it and moving to it.
Kadialy is an incredibly skilled musician, playing the kora as easily as the rest of us clap to a beat. While the release of a new album is referred to as ‘a launch,’ Kadialy isn’t here to throw his music at us – he gives it and as an audience, we received it gratefully. His lack of showmanship was humbling; each time he asked the audience how we were, I felt that perhaps if someone said ‘I’m terrible mate,’ he would have paused the set, embarked on a conversation and then performed an improvised musical response to the audience member’s mood. To see an accomplished musician truly believe he is a man of the people is both rare and exciting.
The union of the ancient kora with guitars and percussion was mesmerising and proved that music needn’t be a battleground between old and new sounds, but a birthplace for new hybrids. While there were times where more prominent shifts in tempo would have been welcome, there is no questioning the richness of Kadialy’s work. The layering of sounds with his warm and flowing vocal style created an atmosphere akin to being shrouded gently in a thousand soft, orange fabrics on a breezy midnight looking up at the stars. Suffice to say, Kadialy would be an excellent addition to the festival circuit this summer, free of four walls and complemented by an epic skyline.
As the concert closed there was a collective energy of thoughtful calm. Not a calm that felt passive: a strong calm – a calm that can be worn like armour and, channeled correctly, could be more powerful than rage. A calm that could contribute to the exact peace Kadialy speaks of. This concert provided a welcome antidote to the current chaos of society, a legacy that will be carried forth by the album and the endearing artist behind it.