Trio Da Kali and the Kronos Quartet feel like a match made in heaven, musical soulmates who found each other even thousands of miles away. It’s a melodic, fairytale union, and Ladilikan is the fruit of their collaborative labor: a sweet, soulful album that brings together old-time Malian sounds and contemporary classical strings. It’s a combination that just makes sense.
Neither half of the pairing overpowers the other; the woodsy timbre of Fodé Lassana Diabaté’s balafon lends a fittingly soft touch of percussion to the Quartet’s often restrained strings and Mamadou Kouyaté’s nimble bass ngoni.
Kronos Quartet’s musical adventures have included an award-winning recording with Rokia Traoré, and now they return to Mali for one of their most successful collaborations to date. Trio da Kali are a young supergroup, all related to distinguished griot musicians, and the album starts with a reminder of their virtuoso skills. Hawa Diabaté’s emotional, soulful voice provides a reminder of her legendary father Kassé Mady Diabaté.
Not every project by inveterate collaborators Kronos Quartet emerges a triumph – their recent Folk Songs album is a case in point. This encounter with three outstanding Malian musicians dazzles, however, partly because the quartet hush their chamber strings and let the African trio strut their formidable stuff. There is no point crowding the voice of Hawa Diabate, whom Kronos founder David Harrington likens to the late gospel diva Mahalia Jackson, handing her a pair of Jackson’s most famous outings (in translation) to spellbinding effect, with Ladilikan featuring Lassana Diabate’s balafon pyrotechnics.