Mali's virtuoso of the kora harp Toumani Diabate, son of the Sidiki Diabate who recorded the first album ever of kora music, Ancient Strings (1970), introduced elements of minimalism, psychedelia and blues into his solo kora album Kaira (1987), recorded when he was barely 21. Songhai (1989) added flamenco and jazz to the recipe. Songhai 2 (1995) and Djelika (1995) were transitional albums, but New Ancient Strings (1999), a collaboration with kora virtuoso Ballake Sissoko, and Kulanjan (1999), a collaboration with Taj Mahal, continued the progress towards an austere and elegant form of kora music.
The spectral In The Heart Of The Moon (2006) documented an improvised session with Ali Farka Toure.
His Symmetric Orchestra, founded in the 1990s, blends traditional and western
instruments (notably Bassekou Kouyate on the ngoni).
The solo-kora album
The Mande Variations (World Circuit, 2008)
is the natural follow-up to
Kaira. Unlike that classic, it broadens the range of inspirations by
moving beyond Mande folk music, from other world-music (the
ten-minute Si Naani) to Ennio Morricone soundtracks.
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