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septiembre 24, 2021

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet - Ladilikan


You take a trio of the finest traditional griot musicians from Mali and put them in the studio with a revolutionary Western string quartet - and the outcome is one of the most unusual and rewarding musical collaborations you are ever likely to encounter. 

Ladilikan, the new album by Trio da Kali and Kronos Quartet represents a landmark in cultural cross-fertilisation which both parties rank among the most satisfying musical experiences in their diverse careers. David Harrington, who founded the Kronos Quartet in 1973, enthuses that the album is “one of the most beautiful Kronos has done in forty years.” On first hearing their griot grooves being played by two violins, viola and cello, Trio da Kali’s Lassana Diabate announced, “This is going to be the best collaboration of my life.” Da Kali means ‘to give a pledge’ – in this case to a musical heritage that dates back to the time of Sunjata Keita, founder of the great Mali empire in the early 13th century. The line-up of balafon (xylophone) bass ngoni (lute) and female singer is also based on ancient tradition, although the trio format and its repertoire is now an endangered species in contemporary Malian music. 

All three Da Kali members come from hereditary musical families, and were brought together as a griot super group by Dr Lucy Duran. Balafon player and musical director Lassana Diabaté was a long-time member of Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra and has recorded with Salif Keita, Taj Mahal and many others. A musician of great subtlety and invention he has honed a virtuoso two-balafon technique to perfection. Bass ngoni player Mamadou Kouyaté is the eldest son of the instrument’s greatest exponent, Bassekou Kouyaté and he holds down the groove in his father’s band ‘Ngoni ba’. He is also involved in the thriving Bamako hip-hop scene. Singer Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate is the daughter of Mali’s greatest traditional singer, Kassé Mady Diabate, and the power, range and phrasing of her voice led David Harrington to compare her to the late queen of American gospel, Mahalia Jackson. 

The Kronos Quartet – David Harrington and John Sherba on violins, Hank Dutt on viola, and cellist Sunny Yang - have built an enviable reputation as the world’s most adventurous string quartet. Known for their commitment to continually re-imagining the string quartet experience Kronos have released over 50 records of extraordinary breadth and creativity and they are no strangers to collaborations with some of the world’s foremost composers and artists. Combining the spirit of fearless exploration with expert craftsmanship and skill, Trio Da Kali’s original repertoire has been taken on a fascinating journey, giving a new voice to timeless sounds. 



Eh Ya Ye

Garaba Mama

God Shall Wipe All Tears Away


Lila Bambo

Kene Bo



septiembre 23, 2021

Seckou Keita - 22 Strings - 2015


After his sublime album Clychau Dibon, with Welsh harpist Catrin Finch (who won the "Cross-Cultural Collaboration" award at the 2014 Songlines Music Awards), Seckou Keita presents his new solo album: 22 Strings (2015), the of his ancestral instrument, the kora, meditation grace and consummate elegance.

The title 22 Strings refers to a story about the kora, which has 21 strings. According to an old legend, when the spirits (djinns) of the African jungle gave the first kora to the griot Jali Mady "Wuleng", it had 22 strings. When Jali Mady died, his fellow griots took a rope in memory of him. In its birthplace in southern Senegal and Guinea Bissau, the 22-string kora has survived, giving special advantages in terms of tonal range. For Seckou Keita, this additional rope represents home, the place where his heart resides.

Seckou shows us the kora in its purity, a wonderful instrument that can take the human spirit to a place of deep meditation, stillness and beauty. As a sample button, the album's closing theme ("Future Strings in E", also featured on Clychau Dibon), an impressive showcase of Seckou's inventiveness on these twenty-two strings. 

01. The Path From Gabou

02. N' Doké (Little Bro)

03. Mikhi Nathan Mu-Toma (The Invisible Man)

04. If Only I Knew

05. Alpha Yaya

06. Kana-Sila

07. Tatono

08. Mandé

09. Abdou N' Diaye

10. Future Strings in E

septiembre 03, 2021

Frode Haltli - Avant Folk


The opening track of ‘Avant Folk’ is like a dream of what contemporary experimental folk-meets-jazz-meets-chamber-music might be. Composed by Frode Haltli, ‘Hug’ begins with a galumphing off-centre rhythm that could be an accompaniment to elephants waltzing before the wheezing bellows-breath of Haltli’s accordion creates delightfully airy whispers of noise that drift across the other instruments like wisps of cloud across the sky.

Then we get the entry of the theme, a compulsive Nordic ear-worm folk melody led by Hardanger fiddle and violin that’s half woozy sea-shanty and half universal pan-African groove, backed up by shuffle-beat drumming like Ed Blackwell with Ornette Coleman. As if that wasn’t enough for one tune already, the music continues to evolve, with a beautifully poised improvised solo on trumpet by Hildegunn Øiseth that sounds so perfect it should really win some kind of award on its own. The groove slows down, the elephant waltz returns to form a satisfyingly symmetrical conclusion and the music gradually resolves into silence, bringing to an end what has been seven and a half minutes of continuous invention. It’s quite a performance, and quite a band, the dectet of expert players covering enough instruments between them to simulate the tonal breadth of a full orchestra while retaining the humble, home-made aesthetic of a traditional folk ensemble, matching compositional sophistication and individual virtuosity with collective empathy and hard-won grace.

Elsewhere, as the album develops, the folk references expand to include echoes of west African desert blues, east European gypsy swing, Armenian double-reed laments and lugubrious Nordic village knees-ups on a range of material partly adapted from traditional hymn-tunes and songs from Norway and the Faroe islands to form a kind of north Atlantic gumbo. But ‘Avant Folk’ never feels like a slapdash fusion of different elements mashed together without regard for the integrity of the whole. Importantly, the band always sounds like a proper band, as fleet-footed as any improvisational jazz ensemble, and able to hurdle with ease the normal generic divides separating one type of music from another. By the time the listener reaches the end of the album’s final track, ’Neid’ – another Frode Haltli composition, like the opening ‘Hug’ – ‘Avant Folk’ has effectively created its own genre, a pleasingly congruent collection of stylistic traits that sounds like nothing so much as itself. All the music, whether composed by Frode Haltli or adapted from antique sources, is arranged jointly by Haltli and the band members.

So where did ‘Avant Folk’ come from and why does it sound so good? For a start, Frode Haltli (born 1975, Norway) is, like many of the ensemble’s star players, a classically-trained virtuoso who from an early age (he began the accordion at seven) has been well used to working between different forms of music, from traditional folk to the avant-garde, and to collaborating with players from all sorts of backgrounds. Haltli also composes, both on his own and with Maja S.K.Ratkje (his co-producer on ‘Avant Folk’, who is responsible for the album’s editing and mixing), and has developed very strong links with fellow musicians and composers both within Norway and internationally, once again working across the normal boundaries demarcating one musical form from another, recording the complete accordion works of Arne Nordheim, for example, but also appearing with the various groups of jazz saxophonist Trygve Seim. His debut recording for ECM, ‘Looking On Darkness’ was released in 2002, followed by ‘Passing Images’ from 2007, (with trumpeter Arve Henriksen, violist Garth Knox and Maja S.K. Ratkje on vocals), and ‘Air’ (2016), a recording of music for accordion and strings by Hans Abrahamsen and Bent Sorensen with the Arditti Quartet and the Trondheim Soloists. His debut release for Hubro, ‘Vagabonde Blu’ (2014), is a live solo recording featuring works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Aldo Clementi and Arne Nordheim. As if any further exemplars of Frode Haltli’s customary melding of the classical repertoire with folk, jazz and beyond were needed, we can also note his current duo with the Norwegian violinist Gjermund Larsen; The Snowflake Trio (with Irish flautist Nulala Kennedy and Norwegian fiddler Vegar Vardal); and a trio with another fiddler, Ragnhild Furebotten, and the Swedish nyckelharpist Emilia Amper.

The breadth of Frode Haltli’s interests is not unusual in Norwegian music and this is paralleled by a number of his collaborators on ‘Avant Folk’, many of whom – like the inspirational fiddler Erlend Apneseth (a regular Hubro artist in a number of settings) or the keyboardist Stale Storlokken (of Supersilent and Motorpsycho, among others) enjoy similarly wide-ranging careers that weave in and out of numerous musical styles and settings. But the last word on ‘Avant Folk’ has to be the music. The album ends on the suitably epic note of Haltli’s ‘Neid

1 Hug 07:22

2 Trio 04:22

3 Kingo 10:44

4 Gråtar'n 05:30

5 Neid 13:29