There are zillions of kora players out there, most of whom can lay claim to being descended from a long line of griots. What is it about Mamadou Diabate's music that warrants repeated listenings? Sure, he has the griot pedigree, the requisite sparkling technique, and the ability to maintain a compelling rhythmic groove. What sets him apart from the throng is his flair for making this ancient instrument sound as though it was invented yesterday. At a mere twenty-five years old, Diabate makes a
reverent nod toward tradition, and then takes the kora down his own new path. He incorporates blues and jazz elements into his original compositions, and arranges traditional material to sound fresh and contemporary. Diabate likes to experiment with articulation on the kora, one moment sounding crisp and dry, the next liquid and flowing. In his hands the instrument can sound like everything from finger-style guitar to hammered dulcimer. He gives his vary capable backup musicians free rein on several tracks. Fuseini Kouyate's sharp, percussive attack on ngoni is highlighted in "Djelimory." Famoro Diabate's balafon flows in the celebratory "Larsidan." Tunga is a promising debut from a creative young musician. - Peggy Latkovich
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