sun 25/06/2017

CD: Kassé Mady Diabaté - Kiriké | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kassé Mady Diabaté - Kiriké

CD: Kassé Mady Diabaté - Kiriké

A magically intimate moment with Mali's top vocalist

Kassé Mady is the epitome of the ‘cool’, demonstrating the virtue that lies in never doing anything with excessive ostentation
Soundjata Keita, the famed emperor of MaliDrawing by Dialiba Konaté

In reaching out to audiences beyond the African context, Malian musicians and singers have adopted performance styles that don’t always reflect the intimacy and personal communication so fundamental to the praise-singing at the heart of the region’s musical tradition. Kassé Mady Diabaté’s latest release, while not his first acoustic outing, avoids the world music festival staples of rock-tainted histrionics and takes us really close-up to possibly African’s greatest living singer’s warmth, generosity of spirit and deep-flowing soul. Kassé Mady is the epitome of the "cool",  demonstrating the virtue that lies in never doing anything with excessive ostentation.

Kassé Mady hasn’t received the wide acclaim he deserves because he isn’t driven by ambition or dazzled by the promise of international celebrity. But his natural modesty and magical charm shine through in a way that no other Malian singer has managed before. Although you can’t hear the crickets and other nocturnal animals, this is like sitting in a Bamako compound, late at night, under the stars, and being sung to, person to person, without any attempt at playing to the gallery.

This is the third in a series of albums that French cellist Vincent Ségal has produced, the first two with the kora player Ballaké Sissoko who is joined here by Lansiné Kouyaté on balafon and Makan Tounkara on ngoni, discrete yet totally present accompanists. Ségal’s joint project with Ballaké, Chamber Music, was one of the outstanding African albums of recent times: Ségal’s sympathy for the music of Mali enables him to add something without robbing any of the music’s essence. His cello playing for Kassé Mady is discreet, the strings plucked gently and evocative washes of sound produced gently with his bow. Lansiné’s balafon playing is a model of understatement, beautifully recorded so that the gentle buzz of harmonics when the mallet strikes the wooden keys produces a typically African example of distortion as a form of beauty. Makan Tounkara’s ngoni is virtuosic without taking the limelight, the perfect foil to Kassé Mady’s noble singing.

It is said that the griots or jalis sing in order to “give people courage”. The combination of strength and vulnerability, softness and control, in Kassé Mady’s voice has a deeply "en-couraging" force, demonstrating, almost paradoxically, that deep strength and the ability to overcome the difficulties of life derive from the acknowledgment of one’s own wounds.

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