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THE MANDE VARIATIONS

21 customer reviews

Price: £10.45 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (25 Feb. 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: World Circuit
  • ASIN: B0011OJPT6
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,926 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

Product Description

"The sort of musician you only encounter once or twice in a lifetime." Lucy Duran, BBC Radio 3

'The Mandé Variations' is the highly anticipated solo album from Africa's most brilliant instrumentalist and king of the kora, Toumani Diabaté. A particularly beautiful and melodically accessible instrumental album which will appeal to a very broad spectrum of music buyers, whether they favour jazz, classical, folk, ambient, or even chill out. In fact, anyone who enjoys discovering new music!

A moodier, more reflective and mature sound than we have heard previously from Toumani before, featuring interpretations of classic themes alongside groundbreaking improvised pieces. The album is a departure from Toumani's recent collaborative work and the chance to fully appreciate his incredible musical ability and creativity in his own right.

As always with World Circuit recordings, great attention to detail has been paid to recording, production, packaging and presentation to ensure it is of the highest quality.

Personnel:
Toumani Diabate - (kora)

BBC Review

Kora maestro Toumani Diabaté has a lot of legend to live up to. Although synonymous with the instrument ever since his sparkling international solo debut, Kaira (1988), The Mandé Variations is only his second solo disc. While Kaira introduced a new level of technical sophistication, it stuck to folkloric repertoire inherited from Mali's ancient Mandé empire, founded way back in 1235. This new album continues to develop kora technique and covers some of the same territory, but also ventures beyond the Mandé heartland for inspiration - with mixed results.

World Circuit's renowned production/recording team of Nick Gold and Jerry Boys have captured the kora's sound as never before, with an almost cinematic clarity. You can just about see Diabaté drawing breath, and the folds of his boubou brushing against one another as he picks over the strings. He seems to take an almost playful delight in the reverberations of the bass notes on Ali Farka Touré, his tribute to the late great 'desert blues' guitarist. But in attempting to evoke Ali's genius, Diabaté gets carried away in a pointless display of virtuoso trills that bear no relation to the great man's understated playing. If this were transposed onto electric guitar, it would sound like poodle rock excess. To a lesser extent, the same problem mars the only other completely improvised - and rather directionless - composition, El Nabiyouna, and even the coda of the otherwise gorgeous ten-minute opener, Si Naani.

Still, when Diabaté remains rooted in tradition (while both composing or reinterpreting ancient themes) the results are sublime. Elyne Road has a flowing, restful vibe, as does Ismael Drame. Kaouding Cissoko (dedicated to the late Senegalese kora player) is an engagingly dense, racing piece, and the closing Cantelowes has a wonderful, meditative groove, even if it does start with a quote from Morricone's The Good The Bad & The Ugly, as if to wind up purists.

It's laudable that Diabaté never stands still as an artist, but The Mandé Variations won't pass the Buena Vista dinner party test. Maybe he should keep his experimental tendencies and rockisms for his Symmetric Orchestra. --Jon Lusk

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jazzrook TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Mar. 2008
Format: Audio CD
Toumani Diabate is a Malian master of the kora(a 21-stringed West African harp). 'The Mande Variations' is only his second solo album although Toumani has been a guest of various artists such as Ali Farka Toure('In The Heart of the Moon'), Bjork('Volta'), Taj Mahal('Kulanjan') and Roswell Rudd('Malicool'-see my review).
This beautifully recorded acoustic album is a masterpiece of traditional African music which should appeal to a wide audience and deserves to be a strong contender for World Music record of 2008.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe on 14 Jun. 2008
Format: Audio CD
Toumani Diabaté, the kora guru of Africa, has outdone himself with this collection of solo instrumental pieces. The virtuosity in fingering the kora, the richness of the rhythms and range of melodies is unmatched by anything this Malian musician has done previously. I enjoyed his earlier solo collection, "Kaira", produced twenty years ago and his "New Ancient Strings" (1999), with which he and the younger Ballake Sissoko paid homage to their fathers' musical genius. Yet now, with this CD he has reached a level of maturity, depth and musicality not previously achieved. For fans of the West African kora, this is a must in their collection; for the "newbies", this is a great introduction into a mesmerizing aspect of Malian music and treat to enjoy over and over again. It will very likely become addictive. This is music to lose yourself in, over and over again.

Toumani Diabaté comes from a long line of Malian musicians. His father was the most famous kora player of his time and Toumani often pays credit to him through his music. Nonetheless, the younger Diabaté has refined the abilities of the instrument and enriched the playing techniques over the years. Elements of these could already be detected in the award winning In The Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with the legendary guitarist, the late Ali Farka Touré. Toumani, being largely self-taught, has been open to experimenting with this traditional instrument, without abandoning its unique sound and complex harmonies. As he traveled the world, he absorbed and learned from other musical cultures, such as Indian classical music, flamenco and blues. The compositions on this CD harmoniously integrate such influences with melodies and rhythms of the past. All are his, or presented in his adaptation.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By fact junky on 29 July 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Unlike New Ancient Strings and Kaira, on which every track is superb, this latest album has a couple of less strong, meandering improvisations that really demonstrate nimbleness of fingers rather than great musicianship. If you are already a fan, definitely buy it, but if this is your first, I'd recommend New Ancient Strings or Kaira.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gordon White on 10 Oct. 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you do not want the hair on your neck to stand up and goosebumps to appear on your arm then don't buy it, because this CD is truly brilliant. It's different to his others but that is the greatness of this guy. Some of the tunes relate to his experiences in the UK and he even plays with us in Cantelowes when you hear the start of the sound track for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Hey this guy has humour as well as brilliance.
With the world falling about our ears and all the talk of greed and corruption just buy this and take your mind to some calm and peaceful place. This can really contribute to your sanity. I'm off to chill out with this CD. I have all his CDs but this is really set apart, perhaps it stands out becasue it is less traditional, please buy it and you will not be disappointed, trust me
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This album comes highly acclaimed, winning awards and complimentary reviews alike, including 'Songlines' magazine. The music here covers the spectrum from traditional kora pieces (played on a kora over 40 years old, given to him by his father) such as 'Djourou Kara nany' to melodies influenced by pop, Indian, flamenco and blues styles, (played on a modern kora with machine-head 'Egyptian' tuning),and written by Diabate, such as 'Ali Farka Toure', his tribute to the great African guitarist, who duets with him on the meltingly beautiful In the Heart of the Moon.

Similarly, the music here covers a wide range of moods as well as styles, from shimmeringly slow and exquisite, to bubbling up-tempo pieces where diamond-sharp notes scatter and shower from the kora. Sound quality is excellent, with the kora feeling as if it were in the room with you. The accompanying booklet is also a thing of quality, with informative notes, plus an introduction to each piece by Diabate himself, and many complementary photos.

Despite the variety and range, not perhaps music to be absorbed in a single session ( those new to kora should first investigate the superb Diabate compilation King of the Kora: An Introduction). However, the richness and complexity here rewards each repeat visit.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Michael T. Isaac on 4 Mar. 2008
Format: Audio CD
I have come late to this kind of West African instrumental music. The Mande Variations is a masterpiece and highly accessible. Helped by a beautiful recording, this is an ideal entry to Diabate's music and I suspect that once sampled the listener will be compelled to seek more. I know I have!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Chambers on 20 Feb. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I treated myself to 'The Mande Variations' for Christmas, tacked on to my presents-order, just in case I didn't receive anything to listen to. The aural gap didn't materialise but I guiltily found myself playing this in front of the CDs I did receive.

It is a marvellous piece of music; the playing is virtuoso but never gets in the way of the charm, the warmth and the wit. Every track has humanity, verve and a joy of living that stops the poignancy and wistfulness becoming sentimental.

If this is your first venture in Malian music, in the past I've liked singers Salif Keita and Boubacar Traoré and Kora player Jali Musa Jawara (on vinyl but CDs available).
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