Ballaké Sissoko – Djourou
Nø Førmat – 9 April 2021
There’s something crisp, clear and really very pleasing in regards to the sound of the kora. It makes me wish to throw open the home windows and really feel the crispness, succumb to the sunshine and share the enjoyment and the pathos of the tunes – even when it’s a gray, damp early spring morning in Northamptonshire. I first turned conscious of Ballaké Sissoko a decade or so in the past once I caught a Lá Blogotheque video of Ballaké with cellist Vincent Segal in a small Parisian cafe and was instantly captured by the distinction and the synergy of the 2 musicians and their devices. Later I thought of that really, it was not that the obvious distinction between the devices themselves that was fascinating, however what they advised in regards to the music that they performed, about their cultural illustration, and the questions this raised in regards to the validity of musical and geographical boundaries.
Come ahead a decade and Ballaké has a brand new album, Djourou, that explores a variety of connections, with singers, with instrumentalists and throughout a variety of musical kinds.
The opening resonance of a strummed kora string declares the beginning, the primary observe, Demba KundaI. The sound from the string drifts away, a second strum after which a delicate flurry of intricate notes that lead subtly right into a pulse that pops up from time to time to remind, or moderately test that you’re protecting the proper time. Such solo items are great to listen to, the instrument masking a variety and with the 2 palms working collectively sounds could be constructed upon sounds. Mande Tabolo, one other solo piece, has a type of introductions that I simply love about Malian music. These intros construct and construct, making you marvel the place they’re going, after which there it’s once more, that pulse, that beat, that cause why you’re unaware of its arrival till you realise you will have been shifting with it, finger, foot or physique.
Nonetheless, this album is not only about Ballaké. Djourou is a Bambara phrase that means string, a thread that weaves its method via the album. That thread is partly Ballaké himself, the maker of connections, however it’s also about connections made by the threads of the music, how they will, and have, develop into connected musically – and geographically – close to and much. Within the title observe Djourou this connection is with the Gambian griot and kora participant Sonah Jobarteh. They play collectively in concord and to this listener, with an ease that surrounds them and me. Watch the video to see how a lot they gel, regardless of Sonah worrying about coming collectively together with her strict, meticulous follow and Ballaké’s looser perspective and method. Take into account that, and watch at their faces as they play collectively.
These threads generally are even nearer to Mali. In Guelen he groups up with one of many best African singers, the “Golden Voice of Africa” Salif Keita. Salif was one of many first African artists I got here throughout once I began moving into music from there, many, many many years in the past. He’s nonetheless on the prime of his sport and the facility and heat of his voice is so evident right here.
Jeu Sur La Symphonie Fantastique brings me again to the place I first got here throughout Ballaké. In addition to Vincent Segal although, he’s joined right here by Patrick Messina to revision Berlioz in a fashion that does it nice justice. I really like the way in which that the sluggish cello and the quick kora add layers that create rigidity, made ever clearer by Patrick’s clarinet gently flitting over the rhythms.
The threads additionally embrace connections additionally made in France, with Camille singing Kora, Mali/French rap star Oxmo Puccino proving there are not any boundaries when Ballaké is paying out the string in Frotter Les Mains, and by full distinction, with English-born Piers Faccini on Kadidja. Three completely completely different artists and kinds, however linked by the flexibility of the kora and the experimentation of the participant.
All this makes me marvel if Ballaké is getting down to show that the kora, an instrument already acquainted within the wider world, is actually a world instrument and may work with many kinds. Maybe it imposes an African air on a tune however then there isn’t a drawback with that; different devices from different cultures have been subsumed into western music. Or is it an exploration of the potential of sounds from varied locations coming collectively? In spite of everything, there isn’t a query of the origin of the banjo, now a prepared device in modern people, so why not others?
Regardless of the cause, this album covers lots of floor and makes some actually thrilling connections. I’m additionally conscious that it’s one factor to benefit from the sound however very a lot one other factor to understand the mastery of the approach, the free circulation of sound while the fingers work delicately, rapidly and with a soul of their very own. Take heed to Djourou as a piece in its personal proper, and take heed to this once more as a place to begin of paying out your personal threads. Wonderful.