Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté

11 June 2014

I wrote here in May 2008 about the Malian kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté who represents the 71st generation of a line of griots that has passed on songs forming the oral history of the Mandé Empire of West Africa from father to son. Last Thursday I was at The Stables in Wavendon to see this remarkable hereditary process in action, as generations 71 and 72 performed together – Toumani playing kora duets with his son Sidiki Diabaté. Sidiki is already a star in his own right – a hip hop performer who regular plays to crowds of 20,000 or more in football stadia in Mali. But he is also a very accomplished kora player and the interplay between father and son was fascinating. The 21-string kora is a delicate, mesmerising instrument but recordings sometimes feel a bit tame compared to the excitement generated by a live performance. I had been listening to the new 'Toumani & Sidiki' album but seeing them playing the pieces at The Stables was a completely different experience. Toumani is an extraordinary performer – surely one of the greatest musicians in the world today. The concert ended with a standing ovation – it was a stunning performance.

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