I went browsing last week on my favourite world music shop, sternsmusic.com, to see what I might have missed out on since my last visit (children can put months between the things we used to do on a daily basis – happily!). I noticed that I haad missed out on an album that was in fact released two years ago. If you’re a fan of the late Ali Farka Toure, or just love the blues of John Lee Hooker, then come back to the place that Ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik cited as the birthplace of Blues. The video on the right is taken from the Boubacar’s album Mali Denhou. Relaxing 🙂Tweet
The Ragas and Talas have, over the centuries in India, dominated the lives of musicians that have decided to commit them to memory with spiritual devotion. There is no standardized method of notation and it’s “out-there” sounds has largely to do with the fact that the notes cannot be found on the western Piano. The CD presents two geographically divided sounds, that of Hindustani and Carnatic, and is played by some of the most revered gurus of today. As we find so often, age has no boundaries in World music. One of the artists featured, Girija Devi celebrates her 80th birthday this year and is one of India’s most celebrated singers in this discipline. This album plugs you into a world that is aurally alien to western style harmonies and is a real journey of the senses.
Sevda’s first album success came with ‘A Flower in Bloom” and it was a masterpiece. She’s from Azerbaijan on the banks of the Caspian sea, and her voice effortlessly fills the broad range between mugam and jazz. Expect to find husky, blues-like tones, caress some earth stopping lamentations of traditional mugam music. Full, expressive direct and beautiful emotion transmitted at virtuoso level at you the listener. This is an album that will escape the radar of Fado music fans, but will surely be loved in the same way.
The Garifuna people are descendants of shipwrecked African slaves that intermarried with Carib and Arawak Indians of the Caribbean. The people can be found in small villages along the Caribbean in the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
In the face of globalization the Garifuna are trying to maintain their culture and traditions in the face of this change. Because this is an album featuring a collective there are a superb range of voices covering different tones and transmitting different emotions.
This female collective uses electric guitar as well as percussion typical to the Caribbean islands. The results are a sound with a softness and quality, and the fusion of African and Caribbean styles makes the album stand out from the crowd. The album’ best track “Hattie” recounts the story of Hurrican Hattie in 1961. It’s complete and utter spine-tingling material, Sarita providing the vocals and a backing featuring a rolling guitar riff and which then leads into Pulp Fiction style basslines.
I discovered the Kora 8 years ago while walking through London’s busy Leicester Square. As I was drawn towards the sound, I expected to find a group of musicians playing, instead I discovered just one musician with a Kora in his hands. Hearing it that day stopped me dead in my tracks, and since then I’ve never looked back.
Moving forward a few years and it was the collaboration between one of Africa’s greatest bluesman, Ali Farka Toure (now deceased), and the explosive talents of a certain Toumani Diabate, that brought to the international stage an instrument that’s been a staple in traditional West African music for centuries.
Read on and be awestruck, because here comes the mighty Kora!
What is the Kora?
The Kora (spelt Cora in French) has 21 heavenly strings and its sound is most closely aligned with the harp, an instrument that has its origins in Egypt, the same continent as the Kora’s birthplace. Principally it’s played in the countries of Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and The Gambia, where artists including Mamadou Diabate, Ba Cissoko, Baba Sissoko, Mory Kanté, Issa Bagayogo, Alhaji Bai Konté, and Tata Dindin Jobarté, bring this instrument to life.
And what a life it has.
Musically the Kora has a range of three octaves and its defining beauty is its ability to operate on many different levels. It can play high, middle, and low notes just like many others, but the Kora can allow a gifted musician to play across all 3 octaves simultaneously. This short video, featuring Toumani Diabate, offers a great example of what I mean.
This is the most amazing instrument, and in the next post we’ll reveal the best albums to introduce you it’s magic.
Have you been spellbound by this instrument too? Please share your experiences with the rest of the TT community below.