In the past couple of years, the kora (harp-lute) had subtly withdrawn from the world music scene, giving way to brasher and more daring crossover productions of African music. This year, the queen of African instruments is entering the arena once again with an elegant stride. The cousins Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko, arguably the most gifted players of today, are sweetening the long summer evenings with soft showers of kora melodies. Back in 1998, they had combined their extraordinary talents on the album New Ancient Strings. This time they have concurrently released solo records that are equally radiant. SissokoΓÇÖs Tomora is the more daring record of the two (though this stylistic adventure might be eclipsed by the media attention focussed on ToumaniΓÇÖs collaboration with Ali Farka Toure). It is an impressive collection of dry kora solos (one of them by a guesting Toumani), and mellow acoustic arrangements featuring accompaniment from buzzing bolon (bass-harp), balafon (xylophone) and ngoni (lute). Sissoko takes these classic instruments of the Mande griots to new harmonic places, while underscoring their dignified history with poised melodies and understated splendour. Particularly striking are 'Handarezo' and 'Berekolan', two stately pieces in which Sissoko's kora drifts into the background, leaving the centre stage to the yearning cry of the Fula fiddle sokou and the husky vocals of Alboulkadri Barry.
Tomora is a soothing break from sensory overload, there to remind us how beautiful music can be.
-- SongLines (*****)
05- s y
08- Niman Don
Artwork (300dpi scan), EAC log and CUE sheet included.