Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Album Review Toumani Diabaté And The London Symphony Orchestra - Kôrôlén

Toumani Diabaté And The London Symphony Orchestra
**** out of *****

The live recording of this meeting of two sonic worlds from 2008 receives a triumphant release as Toumani Diabaté And The London Symphony Orchestra deliver Kôrôlén. Commissioned as a special project by the Barbican Centre in London and produced by World Circuit, these recordings feature Diabaté and his group of Malian musicians (including Kasse Mady Diabaté and Lassana Diabaté), partnering with the LSO, with arrangements by Nico Muhly and Ian Gardiner, conducted by Clark Rundell.

Diabaté is the world renowned Mali artist who has become the master of the Kora a long-necked harp lute of the Malinke people of western Africa. This combo of delicate string worth in front of a full orchestra could be a mismatch, but the LSO never crushes the delicate lead work in front. Opening with the soothing "Haïnamady Town" the combo outfit delivers a gentle start to the proceedings only to move to "Mama Souraka" which playfully dances amongst the high registers.

"Elyne Road" becomes drowsy with the orchestra strings playing a central sleepy part but the follow up "Cantelowes Dream" is a stunning album centerpiece.  The dexterous playing from Diabaté  gorgeously cascades throughout before a collective groove is explored while more dynamite Kora flourishes are sprinkled in. A lead guitar plays flamenco inspired lines and exhilarates before things slowly recede only for those strong Kora passages to start up again as the collective swells with pride; a masterpiece.

The following cinematic "Moon Kaira" keeps things moving brightly with strong woodwind work and themes which propel both the English and African strings. Album closer "Mamadou Kanda Keita" features stirring vocals from Kassé-Mady Diabaté while displaying dueling string runs around the singing, showcasing immense talent and dynamic ability from all involved. 

The title Kôrôlén means "ancestral" in Mandinka and  Diabaté can trace his own history back through decades of Kora players. This unique collaboration captures a fantastic concert for the ages and reminds us that music unites across countries, languages and cultures. 
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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