Saturday, June 05, 2010

Toumani Diabaté at Barbican Hall

A stage review of Toumani Diabaté's concert at Barbican Hall by Lucy Duran.
In the Barbican Hall last night, in an emotional but rousing evening’s music, one Malian superstar celebrated the memory of another. The virtuoso kora player Toumani Diabaté has grown to become one of the biggest names in world music over the past 10 years or so. His elder statesman status (although he’s only middle aged) has much to do with his prowess as a recording artist. Diabaté’s varied albums of the past few years – the stunning solo record The Mandé Variations and big band recording with his Symmetric Orchestra (surely one of the funkiest African albums ever produced) – have entrenched the view that here is a musician who has the ability to celebrate the music of his homeland at the same time as redefining it.

Yet it is his duo project with Ali Farka Touré that has been his most enduring achievement to date. In the Heart of the Moon (2005) has become the stuff of legends. The two lions of Malian music – the griot from the south (Diabaté) and the blues guitarist from the north (Touré) – met at the Hotel Mandé in Bamako, on the banks of the Niger river, and without any rehearsal recorded an improvised set that was intimate, gentle and haunting. The partnership was further sealed with a further London recording session, the fruits of which were finally released this year: Ali and Toumani.
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