Release Date: May 19, 2014
Record label: Nonesuch
This latest episode in the musical development of the great kora player Toumani Diabaté emphasises some of the most important elements of musical practice in Mali. The Griot tradition in Mali values history, lineage and family and Toumani is both the son and grandson of significant kora players. Further to that, he collaborates here with his son Sidiki, well known in Mali as a hip hop artist but also an impressive kora player in his own right.
These days, father-son collaborations in music are a rare thing indeed. Off the top of my head, we’ve had Nas and his old man Olu Dara Bridging the Gap between hip-hop and blues; and there was the initial Mystery Jets line-up that somehow managed to avoid any embarrassing dad awkwardness; but not much else. Now we have Mali’s Toumani Diabate, back with another intriguing collaboration – this time alongside his eldest son Sidiki, on a series of duets on kora (a West African harp-like instrument).
For many young Malians, Sidiki Diabaté is a hip-hop star, known for his work with the rapper Iba One. But he is also the son of Toumani Diabaté, the world's most versatile and celebrated kora player, and a griot who can trace his ancestry back through 71 generations of hereditary musicians. It was inevitable, then, that Sidiki should also be a kora player with an understanding of Mali's ancient music, but it was equally to be expected that he should develop a kora style of his own.
An artist is a reflection of their time, their country, their city, and for better or worse, their family. Search most musicians biographies and you will find at least one influential relative that shaped their music—Bruno Mars’ mother, John Lennon’s aunt, Brian Wilson’s father. But for griots, the esteemed bearers of Mali’s venerable music traditions, this hereditary influence on music stretches back centuries as fathers pass on the tradition to sons who pass it on to grandsons.
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