5 Reasons to Go See Toumani Diabaté
- Stewart Smith
- 20 October 2011
The Grammy-winning Malian musician has a rich history of collaboration
1. His music is mesmerisingly beautiful
Toumani Diabaté is a master of the kora, a traditional Malian harp-like instrument. His ability to weave a gorgeous tapestry of cascading melodies from the 21-string kora is magical. One thumb plays the tune and another the bassline, while the forefingers provide harmony and improvisation.
2. He’s a bearer of tradition
Diabaté belongs to the 71st generation of kora players in his family, and claims to be descended from the first man ever to play the instrument. He is from the Griot tradition of storytelling bards, and through his teaching, passes the culture of the ancient West African Mandé empire on to a new generation.
3. He’s an innovator
Diabaté has explored the currents between Africa and Spain with flamenco group Ketama, and extended the dialogue between African and American music with blues guitarist Taj Mahal and jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd. Collaborations with Björk and Damon Albarn, meanwhile, have taken his music in more leftfield directions.
4. He has his own orchestra
The Symmetric Orchestra features traditional West African instruments alongside modern horns, strings, electric guitars and keyboards. At the centre of it all is, of course, Diabaté’s kora, rippling over Cuban rhythms and Afrobeat grooves.
5. He’s won two Grammy awards
Diabaté’s most celebrated partnership is with the late Malian guitar genius Ali Farka Touré. Their two masterful releases [In the Heart of the Moon and the self-titled follow-up], unrehearsed and recorded quickly, both won Grammys for ‘Best Traditional World Music Album’.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Mon 7 Nov.