A string instrument with a harp-like sound, the kora has been used in traditional African tribal music for at least 500 or 600 years -- some musicologists claim that it goes as far back as the 13th century. Although often heard in traditional settings, the kora hasn't been excluded from modern African pop. In fact, it's a main ingredient of FlamenKora, a captivating CD by African pop artist Djeli Moussa Diawara. The term African pop is applied to an incredibly wide variety of styles -- everything from the most exuberant, danceable, and hyper of soukous, makossa, and zouk to moody, jazzy, noir-ish sounds from Ethiopia and the Sudan -- and Diawara's pop is definitely on the moody side. Not for dancing, Diawara's very reflective and haunting material is strictly for listening and finds the singer/kora player combining African pop with a variety of Latin music. Incorporating Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Spanish elements, Diawara keeps things moody but does so without becoming predictable. Not only does FlamenKora show Diawara to be an expressive vocalist -- it also reminds us that the kora can certainly be relevant to contemporary African pop.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson