An article in The Taipai Times gives a real sense of the role of the griot and the role of the traditional Mali instrument the Kora. Telling stories on the kora shows how the famous Malian musician Toumani Diabate is a modern griot.

Toumani Diabate is sitting under a tree in his moonlit front garden, down a dusty dirt road in Bamako, the Malian capital. He is picking out a melody on the kora, the West African harp of which he is a master, and talking about what it means to be descended from a long line of professional hereditary musicians, known as griots. “The first role of the griot is to make communication,” he says. “The griots are like an archive. They know the histories and the stories. I’m playing a griot instrument and taking it outside Africa.”

Read the full story By robin Denselow, THE GUARDIAN, BAMAKO, MALI, Sunday, Feb 24, 2008, Page 18

Maternity Stories from Mali Our Stories – Initiative to Preserve and Share Stories around the World Africa Video: Griot in Mali Africa Photography : Visual Griots of Mali Mali : baby naming ceremony video

  4 Responses to “Mali : Toumani Diabate, Telling stories on the kora”

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  3. Thanks for these reviews, especially the Vienna one!

  4. On reading this article,I felt I must convey to you my own favourable of Toumani who is really Africa,Ambassador for Music.

    It was pure delight and joy to see and hear Toumani Diabaté born in1965 in Mali, kora prince and virtuoso, accompanied by Symmetric Orchestra, his Pan African orchestra (Mali, Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire) in the Vienna Konzerthaus on 10, October 2007.
    For almost two and half hours, the audience in the Mozart Saal was
    entertained with the exciting and some times frenetic rhythms from the Manlike culture of Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger. The non-stop performance was sometimes slowed down a little by the display of Toumani’s virtuosity with solos on his kora which also revealed his pedagogic abilities in his explanations and demonstrations on the 21-stringed instrument dating from the 13th Century Mandingo Empire in West Africa. With the simple clear explanations of the Malian star, the kora appears to be a simple instrument to play. I know from experience that it is not. Toumani, who comes from a Griot family of several generations, has been playing the kora since the age of four. The ease and the incredible speed with which he manipulates this big and noble instrument is surely a tribute to the griots of West Africa who all unanimously regard Toumani as a great player. I call him the Prince of Kora not only because his father, Sidiki Diabaté (1922-06) was the undoubted “King of Kora” and Toumani could legitimately, through his sheer dexterity and virtuosity succeed him even though the father did not teach the son who learnt to play by himself. We still have another great virtuoso, Mory Kanté (Guinea) who introduced the instrument to a wider world and made a world-hit with his Yeke Yeke.
    The Symmetric Orchester seems to consist of only virtuosi but the
    outstanding performer for me was Kasse Mady Diabaté, the great singer of traditional praise songs and a powerful voice, sometimes very high but always convincing in its depth and sheer power and ability to move the audience. What can one say about the excellent balafon player, Fodé Lassana Diabaté whose sheer speed and dexterity on the traditional African xylophone must have surprised quite a few when he played Dave Bruebeck’s and Paul Diamond’s Take Five. Brilliant solos were also delivered by Ganda Tounkara on ngoni, the small six-stringed traditional instrument and by the powerful djembe player, Boubacar Diabaté.
    Part of the audience, standing all the time and ready to dance, was
    not disappointed. They moved to some powerful West African dance numbers interspersed with invitations for audience participation. Some of the European ladies danced extremely well and did some delightful pelvic gyrations which were almost as good as those of the African ladies. It seems African dance music and styles are now well known
    and established in Vienna, thanks to the many African musicians and dance teachers in Vienna who are seldom given the recognition they deserve. The best dancers were of course members of the Symmetric Orchestra, Mamadou Kouyaté (singer and dancer) and Minata Kouyaté (singer and dancer).

    Toumani played some pieces from the last recording he made with the late great Ali Farka Touré: In the Heart of the Moon. Those who know the music of the great master from Niafunké must have felt sad at such a loss of a leading African musician but Toumani and co assured us that the pool of great musicians is not about to dry up: Toumani’s own son plays in a group led by Vieux Farka Touré, the son of the guitar maestro.
    After the show, I noticed that a lot of Austrians rushed to buy the latest cd of Toumani and the Symmetric Orchestra, Le boulevard de l’Indépendence(2006) as well as the recording by Ali Farka Touré and Toumani, In the Heart of the Moon (2005) which won them a Grammy Award in 2006.
    To see all these musicians, in their splendid flowing dresses was itself a delight. How many male musicians in Europe can dare to wear the beautiful violet bubu that Toumani was wearing? The white robes of the others contributed to the magic and enchantment of the evening
    and demonstrated, once again, that the European male’s fear of strong
    colours in his apparel contributes to the loss of an essential element in beautiful performances.
    Toumani and his band definitely produced a first-class performance
    that re-confirmed Africa’s position as the source of the best modern music, both danceable and contemplative.
    Toumani Diabaté and Ali Farka Touré, both wearing bogolan,the traditional mud cloth of Mali.

    Toumani Diabaté with his kora.

    Kwame Opoku, Vienna, 12 October, 2007.

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