The world lost one of the great masters of stringed instrumentation the day renowned kora player Ali Farka Touré passed away.
Perhaps the saddest part of his death has been that we will never get to hear a new recording between Touré and his longtime foil Toumani Diabaté, who has now taken over the reigns as the greatest living kora player. The two Malians were arguably the Glenn Tipton/KK Downing of the 21-string instrument, which resembles a combination of a lute and a harp in its own way, in the intuitive nature by which they knew each other’s playing.
In fact, the only way for Diabaté to achieve such an instinctive creative partnership the magnitude of the one between himself and Ali was to collaborate with his son Sidiki. Named after his grandfather—who recorded the world’s first kora album in 1970 called Mali: Ancient Strings —the 23-year-old had initially forsaken his familial destiny in favor of making beats as one half of a popular Mali hip-hop duo with rapper Iba One.
But on this gorgeous album, father and son come together as Toumani diverts his boy’s attentions away from the samplers and sequencers to create this tranquil set of instrumental duets, recorded straight to tape with no overdubs in London by World Circuit honcho Nick Gold and Buena Vista Social Club engineer Jerry Boys and longtime Toumani producer Lucy Duran. And the way by which the Diabaté men breathe new life into these ten compositions comprised of both obscure kora pieces and well-known Mandé melodies through the telepathic-like way they improvise off one another. Whether you are a fan of classical, jazz or Jerry Garcia,
The elder Diabaté intended for this calming collection buoyed by the bond of the father-son relationship to “show the positive side of Mali”, as he had recently put it. In a country so rife with poverty, malnourishment and civil unrest, Toumani & Sidiki is a most illuminating break in the clouds.