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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Mamadou Diabate

By Nils Jacobson
Published April 27, 2007

Heritage
World Village

Mamadou Diabate, a griot kora player from Mali who now lives in the US, has made sure to preserve his roots in his music. That shows on this project, which he undertook with the support of four other players, only one of whom is not from West Africa. Over half the pieces on the record are “traditional,” drawing upon sources ranging from core Mande music through a classic from the ’60s. Musically, the dominant front line of kora, balafon and guitar makes for a number of interesting combinations, whether the players act in unison, counterpoint or conversation with each other. The entrancing and affable vibe of the album conveys a pervasive sense of peaceful celebration, only interrupted when Diabate occasionally decorates his playing with insanely virtuostic trills and blistering runs. In doing so, he sacrifices the beautiful, rich resonance of the kora, which requires time and patience to ring true.