From Sweden to Senegal with fiddle and kora
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cd cover Ellika & Solo
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A few years have gone by since this award-winning duo released the applauded Tretakt/Takissiba. Intensive touring has strengthened the already glorious duo, and their new album is fantastic. The music on Abaraka/Tack! is just as fresh and spirited as on their debut. Ellika Frisell's fiddle playing is lyrical and beautifully nuanced. It's no wonder she's considered one of the queens of Scandinavian fiddling. Judging from his phenomenal kora playing Senegalese musician Solo Cissokho must have magical fingers. He utilizes the wide tonal range of the instrument. The lower strings are used for rhythmically intriguing bass figures whereas the higher register is often used for accentuating melodies, often with series of blistering runs. Some tracks would qualify as jams, while others are based on more structured traditional or newly composed material, although there are improvisation to be found there as well. Most songs are based on a groove set by Cissokho, while Frisell or Cissokho provides melodies with either fiddle or voice.

Often world music fusions imply that one tradition is in the center, and the others in the periphery as coloration. This is not the case with Ellika & Solo. At a given moment one of them may dominate, but they are keen listeners and give each other space. Cissokho's kora, with its rich, polyphonic timbre, triggers the fiddle. This dynamic gives a nice edge to the music, although on some rare occasions Frisell seems a little tense.

Also appearing on the CD are some of Cissokho's relatives; Adama Cissokho and Binta Suso, two excellent singers and the percussionist Seckou Keita. American fiddler Bruce Molsky, who has appeared on stage numerous times with the duo, also contributes on some tracks, adding another tradition to the already exciting hybrid of Swedish and Senegalese music. Molsky also plays an old-timey banjo on the Swedish "Polska efter Nylandspojkarna," perhaps as a nod to Nylandspojkarna, two fiddling brothers that emigrated to the US last century. It is one of the highlights on Abaraka/Tack!

To succesfully blend Swedish and Senegalese music requires ingenuity, tremendous skill and guts. Ellika & Solo have it all. - Staffan Jonsson

CD available from cdRoots

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