mon 29/11/2021

Album: Toumani Diabate and the London Symphony Orchestra - Kôrôlén | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Toumani Diabate and the London Symphony Orchestra - Kôrôlén

Album: Toumani Diabate and the London Symphony Orchestra - Kôrôlén

West Africa at the Symphony

Toumani Diabate, master of the 21-string kora, along with some other Malian musicians, collaborated on a symphonic concert at London's Barbican Centre in 2008.

The orchestra in question were the London Symphony, who have often been open to working with musicians from outside the classical field. The recording has now become available, and joins a number af Toumani's adventurous collaborations that have included the flamenco group Ketama, jazz trombone-player Roswell Rudd, and the blues singer Taj Mahal.

The classical music orchestra produces a very specific sound that has attracted musicians from the world of pop and jazz. It offers a familiar and potentially versatile texture as well as a badge of respectability. The jury is divided regarding such well-known recordings as Charlie Parker or Clifford Brown with strings. At best, the symphonic orchestra provides a background or frame rather than a more expressive or elaborate presence. With Toumani, the result is undeniably tasteful, and the arrangers Ian Gardiner and Nico Muhly have produced something mostly unobtrusive, that serves the African soloists rather than upstages them.The first four tracks are gentle, in tune with the kora's scintillating and fluid sound: the orchestra never fights against the African instruments, whether violins and cellos, a solo oboe or bass clarinet: they play an acccompanying role. Nico Muhly was working as Philip Glass's assistant at the time and his arrangements are distinctly minimalist in style. This resonates well with the subtle repetitions of West African griot music, a genre which aboids the narrative tropes of much classical music and goes instead for something more meditative.

The music takes off when balafonist Lassana Diabate, one of the best in Africa today, is given space (as on "Mama Souraka"), or the late great singer Kasse Mady Diabate breaks loose on "Mamadou Kanda Keita" with a voice that works particularly well with one of the few orchestral arrangements (in this case Ian Gardiner's) that do more than provide a wash of sound. There's a moment of drama here which is unfortunately lacking in much of the album. Such collaborations might be more convincing if the diverse elements were enhanced by being brought together. In this case, the result is well polished, but without the magic that Toumani has delivered in his wonderful collaborations with Ali Farka Toure or Ballake Sissoko.

The symphonic orchestra provides a background or frame rather than a more expressive or elaborate presence

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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