Boulevard de l'Independance
Toumani Diabate and the Symmetric Orchestra
Toumani Diabate, the acknowledged master of the West African kora, has been in a headlong flurry of recording activity for the past couple of years. We last heard from him when African Business reviewed Ali Farka Toure's highly acclaimed 'In the Heart of the Moon'. The result was an exquisite contribution from Diabate.
Now Diabate returns with his own extraordinary album. A super-charged, tradition-meets-modernity dance-band album, 'Boulevard de l'Independance' successfully unites the two sides of this remarkable musical personality--the virtuoso traditionalist and the restless innovator--in one seething pot of rhythm.
As the 53rd in a great line of distinguished master-musicians, Diabate is the custodian of an ancient musical tradition. Yet, on this album, he displays a fearless, boundary-crossing experimentalist streak.
He may have frequently carried his instrument's exquisite, tingling cadences into collaborative projects--with bluesman Taj Mahal, flamenco band Ketama and Blur's Damon Albarn for example--and, simultaneously, pushed the boundaries of the kora. He has suffused the kora, an ancient West African instrument sometimes described as a harp, with new techniques and influences. Be assured, this album is like nothing you have heard from Diabate before.
This mixture of openness and respect for tradition has made Diabate something of an icon for young musicians across West Africa. Many have travelled long distances to come to the Malian capital Bamako in the hope of playing with him; Diabate, still only 40 years young himself, has sought to channel this enthusiasm through open sessions held every Friday night at Bamako's Hogon night club.
An extraordinary project
It was about five years ago that word started coming through from Bamako about extraordinary goings on at the Hogon. A new and completely different kind of Diabate project was said to be afoot--one that united his extraordinarily varied instrumental styles with the voices of top local singers, including the great Kasse Mady Diabate; which drew florid Guinean-style guitar styles and a whole posse of flailing Senegalese sabar drummers into one supernova big-band--the Symmetric Orchestra. For Diabate, the name of the orchestra evokes the perfect symmetry he aims for between tradition and modernity, and between the contributions of musicians from a number of...