As we already established this week with the help of Sona Jobarteh
and Ballaké Sissoko, you can put two expert kora players together to
wonderful effect. But another Malian virtuoso, Toumani
Diabaté—Jobarteh’s cousin—is stretching his wings and testing
out the London Symphony Orchestra—does its presence add anything to
the kora? Hear for yourself. I, for one, sort of melted onto the
floor when I first listened to it, so maybe sit down first.
Diabaté and the London Symphony Orchestra performing “Haïnamady
And the best part is that this is just one track of a whole album
they made together. Coming out on World Circuit Records on April 23,
commissioned as a special project by the Barbican Center—longtime
Afropoppers will recognize the
as where fellow World Circuit artists Orchestra Baobab began their
it’s home turf for the LSO.
album features Toumani and his group of Malian musicians including
singer Kasse Mady Diabaté and balafon player Lassana Diabaté.
Conducted by Clark Rundell, the LSO is playing dedicated arrangements
from Nico Mulhy and Ian Gardiner, who crafted the orchestral parts
with “room for” Diabaté and company to improvise within,
although it seems like once the arrangements were made, both Team U.K.
and Team Mali worked to intertwine the parts.
willing and creative foil to artists like Bjork, Bela Fleck and the
Cuban artists on Afrocubism, Diabaté wanted to show a side of
African music that’s lesser known than the continent’s myriad
danceable grooves; he wanted to show off Africa’s own
classical music, which is “older than Bach,” he likes to remind
After all, this was music composed and performed for the kings of Mali.
“There’s a mystic and classical side to African music, a divinity,” Toumani says. “It is not only about dance, and people need to know this.”