The Kora in Other Western Musical Forms

This is more or less a supplementary post to my original post about the kora in jazz – I wanted to highlight a few more instances of interesting kora usage in non-African traditions.

  • Check out this youtube video to see kora master Toumani Diabate playing with the flamenco group Ketama, with Danny Tompson on double bass.  The interplay between the delicate kora melody (a beautiful hybrid of traditional birmintingo and a more Western chord-driven structure) and the powerful bass counterpoint is really great in this somber piece.

  • Blues great Taj Mahal released Kulanjan in 1999, a duet album with Toumani Diabate.  It is fascinating to hear Toumani emulate the sound of a finger-picked guitar on blues classics like “Spike Driver Blues”, called “Take This Hammer” on this album, and blend seamlessly with Mahal’s gritty vocals and twangy guitar.  The addition of some African-sounding female vocals throughout and a short balaphone reprise of the melody at the end of the track drive home the versatility of West African instruments.  Check out “Take This Hammer” here:

Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate – Take This Hammer

And you can purchase Kulanjan from Amazon HERE

  • Ba Cissoko is both the name of a Ghanaian world music band and the name of the leader of this band.  They released Electric Griot Land, an album of various African/Western hybrid compositions in 2005.  The album’s name comes from Electric Lady Land by Jimi Hendrix.  Electric Kora player Sékou Kouyaté has received the title of “The African Jimi Hendrix” due to his virtuosic soloing and rock-influenced riffs.  The album, however, takes heavily from reggae and disco traditions.  Here are a couple tracks that display the band’s unique sound and diverse repertoire:

Ba Cissoko – La Reve de L’oiseau (Koto Djime) (check out that wah-wah kora!!)
Ba Cissoko – Women (Doonia Guinee) (DISCO!)

You can also purchase Electric Griot Land from Amazon HERE


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