Rokia Traoré, singer and multi-instrumentalist
Toumani Diabaté and Sidiki Diabaté, kora
Both singer and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré and master kora player Toumani Diabaté with his son Sidiki Diabaté ignite the stage with the sounds of Mali during two separate sets.
Rokia Traoré has been named “one of Mali’s most revered voices” by NPR. Traoré recently released her second, critically acclaimed Nonesuch recording, Beautiful Africa, produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Sparklehorse), a follow-up to 2009’s Tchamantché. Traoré’s music draws on her homeland’s traditions as well as the European and American rock and pop she has listened to throughout her life. She collaborated with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and acclaimed director Peter Sellars on the theater piece Desdemona, which was staged at Lincoln Center and the Barbican. In 2012, Traoré joined Damon Albarn’s UK tour, “Africa Express,” featuring John Paul Jones, Amadou Bagayoko, Baaba Maal, and Paul McCartney.
One of Africa’s leading musicians, Toumani Diabaté is responsible for introducing audiences worldwide to the kora, a 21-string harp unique to West Africa and an instrument he plays with exceptional virtuosity. Born into a family of griots—custodians of the ancient oral traditions of West Africa’s Mandé people—Diabaté counts 71 generations in his family line. His musical development in the 60s and 70s was influenced by American soul music and British rock bands. While recording Kaira, his first album in the UK in the mid-80s, he was introduced to Indian classical music, from which he incorporated the jugalbandi method of musical dialogue between two instruments. Diabaté formed the Symmetric Orchestra to explore the balance between tradition and modernity among musicians from numerous African countries; he views musical experimentation as part of the griot’s role in enabling communication between peoples. He has released four albums for Nonesuch—including Ali & Toumani, a Grammy Award-winning recording with guitar virtuoso Ali Farka Touré—as part of the label’s longstanding relationship with the UK-based World Circuit Records.
Sidiki Diabaté, Toumani’s 23-year-old son, is deeply versed in Mandé culture and kora technique. He runs his own recording and programming studio and, with rapper Iba One, is Mali’s premier hip-hop duo—which sells out the 20,000-seat Modibo Keita stadium. Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté have recorded an album of kora duets, featuring almost-forgotten kora pieces and a new look at some Mandé classics from Mali.