on 24 May 2010
Ballake Sissoko is a fantastic kora player who seems to delight in blending his music with other styles or instruments.
This music is very subtle. It's calm, complex and thoughtful. The cello of Vincent Segal fits wonderfully. It's never syrupy but often adds depth and tone not available to the kora.
The album is mainly just kora and cello weaving around one another. There is a smattering of n'goni, balafon and bolon on a few tracks. There is also one track with vocals 'Regret - A Kader Barry' with Awa Sangho. And what a voice! Wow I would really like to hear more. Awa doesn't just belt it out like some of the huge voiced singers of Mali, she uses her voice in a restrained and supple way to fit the complative music.
This is fusion at it's best!
It has been some nine years since Anouar Brahem's 'Astrakhan cafe' shook up the music industry and truly opened all our eyes to the possibilities of 'world music.' Since then there has been a whole raft of releases and while many have been good there has been a huge amount of overrated guff and few to touch Brahem's breathtaking beauty.
So it was with no little pleasure that I have stumbled across this underrated little beauty. Sissoko, (from Mali), plays what is called a kora, (no I'd never heard of one either so I looked it up), which is apparently a bottle gourd cut in half with a bridge and 21 strings no less. Sissoko can make this sound either like a harp or more plucked in a blues like staccato style. Segal, (from France), plays the double bass and he grounds the music slightly for European listeners with a classical touch and thus, presumably, the 'Chamber music' of the title.
The beauty here is the mixture of styles being offered to the listener. Many tracks have a Western edge with the kora sounding almost harplike with a shimmering beauty and crystalline fragility that on tracks like 'Oscarine' are just a delight. On tracks such as 'Histoire de Molly' & 'Mako Mady' the bass is forefront and a sombre downtempo feel leave the listener feeling reflective and not a little sad. Contrasts abound everywhere so that we are taken from uplifting to darker moods as well as the slightly potty with tracks like 'Ma Ma FC' which is great fun and sounds like Rolf Harris is playing the accompaniment.
The playing here is seamless and effortless. The two musicians weave around each other and compliment one another hugely. The recording quality is very high with each instrument well placed and a very high level of detail retrieved.
In all this is a great addition to any music lovers collection and not only represents a great opportunity for something different but also to hear two world class musicians combining their differing cultures to great effect.
This album comes highly recommended in both 'Songlines' & 'Guardian' reviews, claiming 4-5 stars. Crossover or fusion can be tricky, as different instruments/styles are not always complementary, but here the combination of kora (the African lute/harp) and cello works very well.
Sissoko has a more rugged approach to kora than the great Toumani Diabate, but this is probably more in keeping with the earthy, mellow tones of Segal's cello. Unlike more familiar kora/guitar duos, both instruments take turns at providing underpinning rhythmns, and Segal both plucks and bows his cello, often providing a dancing counterpoint to Sissoko's dancing kora. Sometimes this is not wholly successful, for on a few occasions the kora struggles to support the 'weight' of cello when it leads (rather like a large centipede trying to carry an elephant!), but these passages are rare, and the collaboration is often a richly rewarding cascade of melodies and effects.
'Houdesti' settles into a driving riff from both intruments, so that when balafon (xylophone) provides a crystal shimmer of grace notes, the effect is entrancing. 'Histoire de Molly' is another immendiately accessible piece, with the joy of the music making (the album was recorded in 3 takes, without over-dubbing) really infectious. Awa Sanagho's richly emotive voice is an added bonus on 'Regret-a Kader Barry', on an album which reveals additional treasures on each playing. If you enjoy investigating new musical collaborations/combinations, this album is well worth exploring.
on 17 October 2010
This is one for those who liked the Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Toure discs.
It inhabits a similar world, but with the obvious difference of Segal being a cellist rather than a guitarist.
I can't see anyone who liked "In the Heart of the Moon" or ""Ali and Toumani", let alone Toumani Diabate's "Mande Variations", being disappointed in this album.
on 30 August 2010
I bought this c.d. having read a highly enthusiastic review in the Guardian. I was not disappointed ! It is superb beautifully intricate and relaxing, in error I managed to order two copies, but I was so impressed, rather than return one I kept it to give as a present to an appreciative friend.