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Saturday, November 28, 2009


320 KBPS

In West Africa, the last name "Diabaté" is a bit like the surname "Smith." It's common, as it traditionally connotes an occupation, in this case a musical caste, with the holder part of a long line of singers and oral historians-- griots, or, among Mali's Manding people, Jali. Indeed, Toumani Diabaté comes from a long line of kora players. One cousin is the well-regarded Maya Sona Jobarteh. Another is Mamadou Diabaté. Diabaté's name and his skills allegedly span 70 generations. Yet the rising crossover popularity of Toumani Diabaté stems as much from the instrument he plays itself as it does from his mastery of it. The kora is a 21-string harp, of sorts, crafted out of a halved calabash gourd, cow skin and fishing line. Watching someone play it is not unlike watching someone weave, with the results as beautiful as an intricate tapestry.
It's a wonder the delicate sounds of the kora and Toumani Diabaté's playing weren't lost in his last project, a recording with his long-simmering Symmetric Orchestra. An African big band featuring Diabaté and over 50 other musicians, the Symmetric Orchestra is an overt attempt on Diabaté's part to modernize the traditional role of the griot in Mali. The Mande Variations-- only Diabaté's second solo record, and his first since 1988-- couldn't be more different. Here it's just Diabaté and his unadorned kora, recorded with maximum clarity as he pays tribute to his roots and peers.
Backing up a tad, it is truly remarkable that a musician as revered and respected as Diabaté has really only recorded a pair of solo records, with a 20-year gap in between. Obviously he's stayed busy, what with collaborations with everyone from Björk to his Malian peer Ali Farka Touré (honored on a new song named after him). It's a real testament to Diabaté's talent that an instrument as distinctive as the kora can be made to fit in such disparate surroundings, and indeed The Mande Variations works as a sort of crash course in the kora's versatility.
Even sans overdubs, the 10-minute "Si naani" hints at everything from jazz to chamber classical as Diabaté's lush polyrhythms and melodies overlap. "Elyne Road" (named after a street in London, and reportedly inspired by hearing UB40 on his first visit to England) begins as a beautiful ballad before evolving into something wholly more complex. The elaborate, improvised trills of "Ali Farka Touré" pay tribute to the style of the late guitarist (with whom Diabaté worked on 2005's In the Heart of the Moon).
"Kaounding Cissoko" could pass for the tricky ragas of John Fahey, with its drone undercurrent, while "Djourou Kara Nany" swings, however gently. Less successful is the explicit Ennio Morricone quote that starts "Cantelowes"-- the familiar theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, no less-- but that very, very brief digression is the nearest The Mande Variations ever comes to pushing the listener out of Diabaté's world. No, this disc is the real thing, casually captivating from start to finish, with Diabaté's modesty and restraint keeping his virtuosity and the rigor of his compositions from calling conspicuous attention to themselves. It's haunting stuff, no doubt, not in the "ooh, scary" sense, but in the awe inspired by hearing music this pure woven from the hands of a man.

1. Si naani
2. Elyne Road
3. Ali Farka Toure
4. Kaounding Cissoko
5. Ismael Drame
6. Djourou Kara Nany
7. El Nabiyouna
8. Cantelowes


Anonymous said...

Je ne trouve pas le link. Pourrais-tu m'aider, s'il te plaît?

Mr Moodswings said...

clique sur l'image.

Anonymous said...

Oui, je sais, d'habitude, c'est comme ça, mais là, ça ne marche pas...

Mr Moodswings said...

C'est réparé.
Bonne(s) écoute(s) !

Anonymous said...

Oui, maintenant ça fonctionne, merci. Je n'avais jamais entendu parler de lui; j'aime beaucoup. Rien à voir avec Mory Kanté!(Bon, Brassens n'a rien à voir non plus avec Segovia et j'adore!)
En parlant de musiques africaines, elles sont un peu rares sur votre site. Vu mon âge, je pense aux Africains connus en France dans les 80's:Fela, Akendengue,Touré Kunda,Sunny Ade, Xalam, Dibango, Salif Keita...
Philippe, du Mexique.

Mr Moodswings said...

Il est vrai que la musique africaine n'est pas excessivement représentée ici mais c'est le jeu d'un blog tel que Moodswings de ne pas être très complétiste quelque soit le genre ou l'origine géographique de chaque musique.
En cliquant sur le tag "world music" tu découvriras cependant que Youssou N'Dour, Kouyaté-Neerman, Ali Farka Touré, Geoffrey Oryema, Mamani Keita et le Kora Jazz Trio ont cependant été postés et, évidemment, il y en aura d'autres.
Si le coeur te dit de partager certaines des références que tu as citées, en 256 ou 320kbps, je serai ravi de m'y pencher et de poster ce qui m'aura plu.
En attendant, bonnes écoutes et à la prochaine.