Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Review---Kora Master

Mamadou Diabate
Douga Mansa
World Village

Regular readers of this blog will know about my fascination with West African griot music and instruments. I was quite pleased to receive a review copy of Malian griot kora player Mamadou Diabate's Douga Mansa. It falls into West African classical music with Diabate playing solo kora throughout. And yet, with this single instrument, Diabate coaxes a rich tapestry of moods from his harp, not to mention an array of striking rhythms.

The press notes cited, " Diabate's hands, the kora proves capable of infinite variation, encompassing delicately articulated structures, swirling eddies of glissandi, pounding vertical rhythms and roaring cataracts of arpeggio." Which sounds a lot like a review of European classical music and why I am treating this CD as African classical music.

West African is not short of virtuoso kora players, a category in which Mamadou finds himself. His cousin is Toumani Diabate, another fabulous kora talent. Mamadou currently makes his home in the U.S. and he has collaborated with such greats as Taj Mahal, Eric Bibb, Zimbabwean Thomas Mapfumo, Irish singer Susan McKeown and others.

If you love kora music, Douga Mansa offers well over an hour's worth of instrumental music. I think it is too dynamic to be called relaxing and the playing is too mesmerizing to be played as background music. No doubt, both emerging and renowned kora players will be listening closely to this disc. There is a lot here to glean from a master performer.


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