Posts Tagged ‘mali’

Top of the World: Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté – Toumani & Sidiki

Posted on May 20th, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Nigel Williamson

coverA two-man kora chorus

The kora is an age-old instrument, rich in history, yet its promotion as a solo instrument is relatively recent. This is only the third album of kora duets ever recorded, and all three have involved the Diabaté family. Toumani’s father Sidiki recorded the first, Ancient Strings, with Djelimady Sissoko in 1970. Their two sons Toumani and Ballaké Sissoko followed with New Ancient Strings in 1997. Now Toumani has teamed up with his son Sidiki on an album produced by Nick Gold and Lucy Durán. It’s brimming with burnished melodies and virtuoso playing and the production is pristine. Yet perhaps the most impressive aspect is the sheer diversity of the sonic palette.

We think of the kora as possessing a distinctive trademark sound; but on almost every track here the instrument exhibits a markedly different nuance of tone, tuning, resonance, or harmonic character. On ‘Hamadoun Toure’, a century-old Gambian tune, the tinkling arpeggios take on a harpsichord-like sonority. It hardly sounds African at all and it certainly doesn’t sound remotely ancient; the work it most brings to mind is A Rainbow in Curved Air by minimalist Terry Riley. On ‘Lampedusa’, composed in memory of the 300 African migrants who died in the shipwreck off the Italian island in 2013, one of the koras rings like a classical guitar, while the other ripples like a Welsh harp. But who is playing what is impossible to discern, so intricately are the strings of father and son interwoven. Each piece is given a contrasting mood – reflective, energetic, hypnotic, dynamic – often conveyed by striking changes of rhythm or tempo. ‘Rachid Ouiguini’ and ‘Bagadaji Sirifoula’ are spritely. ‘Toguna Industries’ is stately and processional. The rhapsodic ‘Bansang’ evokes a more dream-like sensibility. Every note in this rich tapestry of strings is exquisitely calibrated in the pursuit of perfection.

Track to Try: ‘Hamadoun Toure’

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Top of the World: Habib Koité – Soô

Posted on May 15th, 2014 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


Words by Nigel Williamson

Everyone needs a bit of banjo in their life

Perhaps it was recording 2012’s Brothers in Bamako with the American bluesman Eric Bibb that persuaded Habib Koité it was time for a change; but for whatever the reason, after more than 20 years and half a dozen albums backed by his band Bamada, only bassist Abdul Berthe remains on Soô. It’s more than a simple change of personnel, too. He’s dropped the drum kit in favour of calabash and djembé and added a banjo to the line-up – an instrument that he was introduced to by Bibb. The result is a lilting set sung in his smooth baritone voice in Malinké, Bamana and Dogon, mixing different Malian traditions and addressing many of the problems currently facing his country. The context of the gently melancholic ‘Dêmê’, with its message about living together in peace could not be clearer, given Mali’s recent history. ‘Need You’ is about forced marriage; ‘Khafole,’ despite its gorgeous lullaby-like melody, is a tragic song about a mother grieving for her dead son. The closer, ‘Diadjiry’, a song about war and its horrors made famous by Fanta Damba, is played as a sparkling solo guitar piece and reminds us that Habib is one of Africa’s most accomplished instrumentalists. The changes have done Habib no end of good.

Track to Try: ‘Dêmê

Click here to buy the June 2014 (#100) issue of Songlines, or download the free Songlines app from iTunes or Google Play.

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Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté release ‘Father & Son’ videos and UK tour dates

Posted on April 25th, 2014 in News, Recent posts by .


This issue’s cover stars, Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté, have released two videos – ‘Father & Son’ Part 1 and Part 2. The documentary-style clips uncover the ancient history of the modern griots while showcasing their legendary kora performances together. Moreover, this footage captures the essence of their relationship as they carry on their family line one string at a time.

‘In the studio, Toumani and his son, looking very much alike, are hunched over their koras. I can see them listening with fascination to each other; the bemused smiles on their faces can be heard in the intertwining of the music, as they trade riffs and variations. They’re using an identical set of mics, and yet their individual sound is so different. The father is more lyrical, contemplative, majestic; his sound clear, brilliant and ringing. The son is more staccato and fiery, his fingers run up and down the strings so fast it’s almost hard to believe, sometimes hovering over two or three notes like a hummingbird before taking flight again…’ (Read the rest of Lucy Durán’s article in the 100th issue of Songlines)

Toumani and Sidiki’s new self-titled album is scheduled for release on May 5 on World Circuit. The first 100 CD/LP orders will be signed by the pair.

Additionally, live dates for Toumani & Sidiki’s UK tour have been announced. And be sure to catch them on the mainstage at Glastonbury this summer!

20 May- Theatre Royal “Brighton Festival” / BRIGHTON
22 May-  Theatre Royal “Norfolk & Norwich Festival” / NORWICH
24 May- Royal Northern College of Music / MANCHESTER
25 May- “Hay Festival” / HAY-ON-WYE
26 May- St George’s Bristol / BRISTOL
27 May- St. George’s Hall Concert Room / LIVERPOOL
29 May- Usher Hall / EDINBURGH
30 May- Barbican / LONDON
01 Jun- Warwick Arts Centre / COVENTRY
05 Jun- The Stables / MILTON KEYNES
06 Jun- Howard Assembly Room / LEEDS
07 Jun- National Concert Hall “Waltons World Masters” / DUBLIN
08 Jun- Half Moon Theatre at the Opera House / CORK **NEW DATE**
10 Jun- Bouffes du Nord / PARIS
14 Jun- Paradiso / AMSTERDAM **NEW DATE**
29 Jun- Glastonbury festival/ GLASTONBURY **NEW DATE**

US and European dates are expected to follow soon, visit for more information.

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Exclusive: New video from Sidi Touré

Posted on February 6th, 2014 in News, Recent posts by .


Photograph by Alex Harvey-Brown (

Catch a first look at the new video from Mali’s Songhai bluesman Sidi Touré, featuring the track ‘L‘eau’ (The Water) taken from 2013’s Alafia (Thrill Jockey). With a strong penchant for lens-flares, the video features Sidi singing against the backdrop of the River Niger’s beautiful watery landscapes.

In the new issue Andy Morgan talks to the singer and guitarist about his intent to put Songhai culture on the map and growing up in the north-east of Mali.

‘L’eau’ (The Water)

Don’t miss Sidi this March as he embarks on a European tour:

March 13 – Paris, France – Theatre 13 ticket link
March 14 – London, UK – The Forge ticket link
March 15 – Gateshead, UK – The Old Town Hall ticket link
March 16 – Bury St Edmunds, UK – The Apex ticket link *
March 18 – Brighton, UK – Komedia ticket link
March 22 – Utrecht, Netherlands – Rasa ticket link
March 25 –  Dortmund, Germany – Konzerthaus ticket link *
March 28 – Brussels, Belgium – Espace Senghor ticket link
March 29 – Luxembourg – Philharmonie ticket link *

* Sahara Soul w/ Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba

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