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    Tounami Diabaté

    the mande variations

    The Mandé Variations ( 2008 )
    Si Naani / Elyne Road / Ali Farka Toure / Kaunding Cissoko / Ismael Drame / Djourou Kara Nany / El Nabiyouna / Cantelowes

    'The Mandé Variations' is only the second purely solo record of Tounami Diabaté's career. It's a return to the traditional, yet also sees a couple of weaving inventions, particularly on his tribute to the late Ali Farka Toure. 'The Mande Variations' as a title refers to Mali's ancient Mandé empire, founded back in 1235. Tounami himself is said to be descended from some 70 generations of Kora players, so he should know what he's doing! Indeed, he is a master of his instrument. There is no other sound on this album than Tounami playing his Kora. At times, it is utterly bewitching and hypnotic as his creates overlapping sounds demonstrating the flexibility of the instrument. The ten minute opener 'Si Naani' is almost enough of its own. We've twenty one strings remember for Tounami to play with on his Kora and he uses those strings here to create some deep, resonating bass notes whilst he trills away in the higher register playing some melodies which almost seem to be classically inspired. 'The Mandé Variations' isn't an album the rock and pop fan will easily be able to assimilate, incidentally. It requires concentration and also a love of pure melody for the sake of melody. There are no tricks, everything is recorded live and 'as is'. It's clear from parts of the album the journey Tounami has been through as he works in Jazz touches here and there whilst other parts seem almost eatern in their bewitching majesty.

    Fellow Malian 'Ali Farka Toure' gets a tribute in the form of 'Ali Farka Toure', appropriately enough. A sad loss to the music world, Tounami plays tribute to him by seemingly getting totally lost in pure sound, runs through scales, faster and faster then stopping for reflection before retreating to bare landscapes and pure soul. 'Kaunding Cissoko' is a happy weaving of sounds with the kora bass sounds promiment. It's a lovely piece and quite different from either 'Si Naani' or 'Ali Farka Toure'. 'Kaunding Cissoko' seems to be lighter in mood and although retains astonishing complexity through the intricate patterns Tounami creates, those bass melodies resonate and places images of sunsets in your mind amid happy times. The closing track 'Cantelowes' really does demonstrate the beauty of the Kora harp. A soft, gentle track yet Tounami still picks out two or three different melody lines to complement one another whilst the bass notes here sound lovingly reflective. It's enough to fall in love with, that's for sure. Whilst newcomers may find it easier delving in to one of Tounami's collaborative albums, those that wish to seek out the pure sounds of the Kora, one of the worlds great instruments, will find few better examples of it than the eight tracks that comprise 'The Mandé Variations'.

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    Readers Comments

    gazza, EDINBURGH
    Although something with this kind of space and texture even in the field of traditional music is quite unusual for western ears to negotiate,the mande variations is well worth the effort . Ive found it soundtracking and enhancing journeys to work , and general day to day living in a really hypnotic and spiritual way . Repeated listens find yourself calmed and entranced by this beautiful recording from a rare master of his instrument . I would urge the curious to start here and then check his collaborations with taj mahal and that other giant of african music ali farka toure . A most insightful review from adrian 8/10 .

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    Ali And Tounami 8 ( 2010 )
    Ruby / Sabu Yerkoy / Be Mankan / Doudou / Warbé / Samba Geladio / Sina Mory / 56 / Fantasy / Machengoidi / Kala Djula

    The opener 'Ruby' is a thing of African sunshine, of the ancient ages. It's clean and doesn't show-off I love traditional music when it's done 'right', when you can feel the sense of history. Ali Farka Touré died in 2006, the sessions for this record took place over three spontaneous days in 2005. When Toumani spoke about Ali in 2010, he said this, "His mission was to promote African culture, particularly Malian culture, and he worked at it all his life. He didn’t make music only for Mali. He made music for Mali, Africa and the entire world. He was unique in his field. He was a historian. He was a marabout. He was a healer. He was multidimensional."

    The chiming of Tounami's kora over Ali’s studied, impressive and distinctive guitar lines makes for a lovely listen. Well, their previous collaboration earned a Grammy nomination, will this follow suit? Awards don't equal creativity or validate a particular work of course. Yet, listening to this naturally recorded set and slipping into the dream-like trance the songs seem to suggest you should, into the spirituality of the performances, makes you think this probably should win awards. Of course, it's all a million miles away from most music recorded in London, where these sessions took place. You almost try to imagine Kaiser Chiefs popping round to use the same recording space afterwards. Compare and contrast, you know? One 'Ruby' versus another.

    The bass lines added to '56' match beautifully the playing of Ali and Toumani, this hypnotic slice of happiness runs away for nearly seven minutes, enchanting and sending you someplace. Well, we all have our fantasies yet this music tugs at your religion, at your history, whatever the religion or history. It just 'exudes' the sense of all of these things. Pointless prattling about on string instruments? Well, you can call it that if you prefer, but you'd have to be particularly hard-hearted to think of these two masters in such a way. With 'western' music running around various dead ends and losing sight of any history it had prior to 1955, isn't it worth a dip into how music can last the ages - with restraint, dignity and yes, wonder intact.

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    this page last updated 06/06/10


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