Toumani Diabaté


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The African kora, which is like a cross between a lute and a harp, is one of the world's most beautiful instruments. It isn't as sweet as a harp and, with some of the quick action of a lute or guitar, it is as much a "classical" instrument as it is a "folk" one. On Djelika, Diabate is accompanied by Keletigui Diabate on balafon, an instrument like the xylophone which usually acts as a rhythm section, and Basekou Kouyate on the ngoni, a small instrument thought to be the ancestor of the banjo whose sharp timbre provides a contrast with the kora. The songs are simply beautiful. The title cut is a jazzy piece that slyly quotes the soundtrack "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Keletogui sits out on "Cheick Oumar Bah," a traditional song in honor of one of Mali's spiritual leaders. It is thoughtful and dignified. "Kandjoura," on the other hand, is just fun, fast, and whimsical. It sounds like it's based on an Afro-pop song. The three musicians, each a virtuoso on his instrument, do a wonderful job providing sonic variety to keep the ear intrigued. Djelika is true African art music and should be sought out not only by fans of "world music," but also by aficionados of jazz and Western classical music.

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