Kayhan Kalhor & Toumani Diabate'


The Iranian Kamanche virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor is one of the internationally best known exponents of Persian and Kurdish music. Hehas not only played concerts with the legendary Persian singers Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri, but has also become known to international audiences through his collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra or the film-maker Francis Ford Copolla. Kayhan Kalhor loves to collaborate and encounter musicians from other traditions. Thus he has worked with Indian musicians and has played for many years with the Turkish Baglama virtuoso Erdal Erzincan. Toumani Diabaté will meet Kalhor for the first time in the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrück. Toumani Diabaté comes from an ancient Griot family, who claim tobe able to trace their ancestry back 70 generations. Griots are the guardians of history, literature and music in their culture. Diabaté learned to play the Kora from his father Sidiki Diabaté and now often performs with his own son. Today, Toumani Diabaté is recognized asone of the most influential musicians from West Africa and asan excellent player of the Kora, the West African double bridge harp-lute. Just like Kayhan Kalhor, Diabaté has sought out musicians with other styles. For example, hehas worked with the Icelandic singer Björk, the flamenco band Ketama or the American jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd. 



Toumani  Diabaté  is  one  of  the  most  creatively  prolific  and  successful musicians  on  the  African  continent, and  was  described  by  the Observer as one  of  the  worlds  most  pre-eminent  musicians  in  any  genre.  He plays the kora, a harp with 21 strings unique to West Africa. More than any other kora player, its Toumani who  is  responsible  for  bringing  this  instrument  to  audiences  around  the  world.  Hes  a  performer  of  truly exceptional virtuosity and creativity - someone who has shown that the kora can rival the worlds greatest instruments.  Toumani   was   born   in   Bamako,   the   capital   of   Mali,   in   1965   into   a   family   of   griots   (hereditary musician/historian  caste)  whose  lineage  stretches  back  71  generations,  father  to  son.    His  father,  Sidiki Diabaté (c. 1922-96), was a kora player of legendary fame in West Africa  - dubbed King of the Kora – who became  famous  for  his  virtuoso hot  and  idiosyncratic  style  of  playing,  echoes  of  which  can  be  heard  in Toumanis style. Sidikis first wife, Toumanis mother, was the singer Nene Koita.  Despite the musical environment in which Toumani was raised, he was self-taught, never learning directly from his father except by listening.  He began playing the kora at the age of five at a time when the Malian Government  was  engaged  in  an  active  programme  of  encouraging  regional  ensembles  to represent  local traditions.  Toumani  was  recruited  to  the  ensemble  from  Koulikoro  (some  60  kms east  of  Bamako)  with whom he made his public debut at the age of 13 to great  local acclaim. In 1984 Toumani joined the group of brilliant young musicians who accompanied the great diva Kandia Kouyate.   Toumani first came to the Europe in 1986 to accompany another Malian singer, Ousmane Sacko, and ended up staying in London for seven months. During this period, at the age of 21, he recorded his first solo album Kaira, the first ever solo kora album and still a best seller. In 1986 Toumani also made his first appearance at a WOMAD festival and made a significant impact. In the UK, Toumani met and worked informally with musicians from many different fields of music. His first major recorded collaboration was with the Spanish flamenco group Ketama. The resulting album Songhai, with pieces like Jarabi, was a perfect synthesis of kora and flamenco. In  1990  Toumani  formed  the  Symmetric  Orchestra,  a  name  that  evokes  perfect  balance  or symmetrybetween  tradition  and  modernity  and  between  the  contributions  of  musicians  from  a  number  of  closely related countries. Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Mali itself, were all part of the medieval Mandé Empire and Toumani had the idea of recreating its cultural equilibrium in a modern musical context. The orchestra name was first used on CD for the elaborate projet Shake The Whole World released in 1992 in  Japan  and  Mali  only.  Maintaining  a  weekly  residence  at  the  Hogon  in  Bamako  throughout  Toumanis career,  the  group  continued  to  evolve  and  grow,  culminating  in  the release  of  the  acclaimed  album Boulevard de l’Indépendance in 2005, and the extensive international touring that followed.  In  the  early  to  mid  1990s,  Toumani  began  to  gather  a  number  of exceptionally  talented  musicians  around him, such as the brilliant Bassekou Kouyate on the ngoni, and Keletigui Diabaté on balafon. He cultivated a type  of  jazz-jugalbandi-griot  instrumental  ensemble  which  can  be  heard  on  his  album Djelika,  released  in 1995.  In the same year Toumani travelled to Madrid to record Songhai 2.
World Circuit Records | 1st Floor, Shoreditch Stables, 138 Kingsland Road. London E2 8DY Tel +44 207 749 3222 | press@worldcircuit.co.uk | www.worldcircuit.co.ukIn  1998  Toumani  recorded  a  kora  duet  album  with  Ballake  Sissoko;  their  respective  fathers  released  the 1970s classic Cordes Anciennes (Ancient Strings), so the new album was called New Ancient Strings. It was their tribute to the original record and an attempt at bringing such material to a modern audience.   They  say  that  the  blues  comes  from Africa,  so it  seemed  entirely  natural  that  Toumani  should  collaborate with  the  bluesman  Taj  Mahal.  Their  groundbreaking  album Kulanjan  was  released  in  1999.  Constantly  on look  out  for  ways  to  evolve  and  innovate,  Toumanis  next  album MALIcool  was  a  collaboration  with  the American   free   jazz   trombonist   Roswell   Rudd   that   took   another   step   out   towards   the   edge.   The arrangements  are  sparse,  leaving  everybody  room  to  improvise,  and  there  are  a  few  unexpected  pieces such  as  an  interpretation  of  Thelonius  Monks Hank,  a  swinging  version  of  a  Welsh  folk  song,  and  a leftfield take on Beethovens Ode to Joy. Toumani  has  participated  in  many  other  recording  projects  both  at  home and  abroad:  he  appears  on  Ali Farka  Tourés  eponymous  debut  album  for  World  Circuit;  he  toured  with  Salif  Keita  and  appears  on  his acclaimed albums Papa and Mbemba; he was part of Damon Albarns Mali Music project; hes featured on Kasse Mady Diabatés 2004 Grammy nominated album Kassi Kasse, and in 2007 he featured on the track Hope  on  Björks  album Volta,  which  lead  to  an  inspired  guest  appearance  on  her  set  at  the  Glastonbury Festival.  Toumani has enjoyed recognition for his contributions to the development of the kora and African music in general. In 2004 he received the Zyriab des Virtuoses, a UNESCO prize awarded at the Mawazine Festival in Morocco.  Hes  President  and  Director  of  Mandinka  Kora  Productions,  who  actively  promote the  kora through  workshops,  festivals,  and  various  cultural  events.  Hes  also  a  teacher  of  the  kora  and  of  modern and traditional music at the Balla Fasseke Conservatoire of Arts, Culture and Multimedia in Bamako.  In  2004,  Toumani  began  working  with  World  Circuit  on  a  trilogy  of  albums  recorded  at  sessions  in  the Mandé Hotel in Bamako. The first release was the duets album In the Heart of the Moon, recorded with the great Ali Farka Touré, which won the Best Traditional World Music Album GRAMMY Award.  Second in the trilogy  was Boulevard  de  l'Indépendanceby  Toumani  Diabatés  Symmetric  Orchestra.  The  third  was  Ali Farkas final solo album Savane.  Toumani accompanied Ali on his last concert tour in the summer of 2005 during which they spent 3 days in a London studio recording Ali and Toumani, the follow up to In the Heart of the Moon, which also won a Grammy. Taking  time  out  from  their  weekly  residency  at  Bamakos  Hogon  club  (recently  moved  to  Le  Diplomat), Toumani  Diabaté  and  his  Symmetric  Orchestra  proved  a  revelation  when  they  headlined  venues  such  as New Yorks Carnegie Hall or festivals such as Glastonbury, Nice Jazz Festival, and Montreal Jazz Festival.   Toumani was also busy working on his next album The Mandé Variations, released in February 2008. Its an all-acoustic  album,  Toumani's  first  solo  kora  work  since  his  groundbreaking  debut  album Kaira, released over  twenty  years  before.  Both  the  album  and  subsequent  solo  recitals  were met  with  universal  critical acclaim. Toumani performed a special concert with the London Symphony Orchestra and the year came to a climax with another GRAMMY Award nomination and an NAACP Image Award for The Mandé Variations. Toumani  was  appointed  UNAIDS  Goodwill  Ambassador  in  December  2008,  using  his  music  to  spread awareness on HIV and AIDS.  2010 proved to be another prolific year for Toumani. The album Ali and Toumani was released at the start of the year to universal praise. Following its release, Toumani and his band played his interpretations of the music  of  Ali  Farka  Touré  in  a series  of  special  concerts  appropriately  called The  Ali  Farka  Touré  Variations Tour, which included a special show in Paris with Alis son Vieux stepping into his fathers role for one night only. That  summer  saw  the  premiere  of AfroCubism,  an  all-star  group  featuring  the  finest  musicians  from  Cuba and  Mali,  including  Toumani.    In  1996,  a  group  of  Malis  finest  musicians  were  due  to  fly  into  Havana  to collaborate  with  some  of  Cubas  most  brilliant  singers  and  instrumentalists.  For  reasons  that  have  never been  made  clear,  the  Malians  never  arrived. A  very  different  album  was  recorded: The  Buena  Vista Social
World Circuit Records | 1st Floor, Shoreditch Stables, 138 Kingsland Road. London E2 8DY Tel +44 207 749 3222 | press@worldcircuit.co.uk | www.worldcircuit.co.ukClub. The rest, as they say, is multi-million selling history. World Circuit finally brought the original invitees together  with  a  stellar  line-up  of  additional  talent  at  a  series  of  inspirational  sessions  and  the  great  lost Afro-Cuban album Afrocubism was released fourteen years after originally planned.  Toumani celebrated his second GRAMMY Award for Ali and Toumani in 2011.  He also embarked on a new collaboration,  this  time  with  the  Brazilian  artists  Arnaldo  Antuñes  and  Edgard  Scandurra,  resulting  in  the album A Curva a Cintura. The  crisis  that  hit  Mali  in  March  2012  had  a  deep  effect  on  Toumani.  He  learned  about  the  military  coup that  toppled  President Amadou  Toumani  Toure when  he  was  on  his  way  to  Wales  to  collaborate  with  the harpist  Catrin  Finch.  Nightlife  in  Bamako,  and  the  livelihoods  of  many  musicians  were  extinguished  for  a while. The Islamist take over of the northern two-thirds of the country and the banning of music there also provoked profound antipathy in Toumani, who is not only one of Malis most famous musicians but also a devout Muslim. In March 2014 SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) announced that Toumani Diabaté is to be awarded  an  Honorary  degree  of  Doctor  of  Music  (D.Mus)  in  recognition  of  his  influential  work  in  raising awareness  of  the  kora  and  the  traditional  music  of  Mali  around  the  world  and  his  contribution  to  Mande scholarship,  (which  Mr  Diabaté  and  his  family  have  been  involved  with  since  the  1st  Mande  Studies Conference at SOAS in 1972). The only other musician to have received an Honary degree is the acclaimed pianist Daniel Barenboim, in 2008. Malis recent tragedy was one of the main impulses behind Toumanis decision to record an album of duets with  his  son,  Sidiki  Diabaté,  a  hugely  talent  kora  player  and  a  successful  hip  hop  artist.  He  wanted  to present  the  72nd  generation  of  Diabaté  griots  to  the  world,  but  also  reaffirm  his  belief  that  Malis  most precious  assets  are  its  music  and  culture,  its  traditional  faith  and  the  bonds  that  bind  its  many  different peoples. 


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