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Album Review

Given his reputation in Europe and his native Guinea, as well as his pedigree, the debut from kora player Ba Cissoko and his group arrives with plenty to live up to. For once, though, all the hype is more than justified. There's plenty of dance music on hand here; all of it from the Manding tradition, but given a healthy, and sometimes daring edge that makes it contemporary without being deliberately modern. Cissoko himself plays acoustic kora, and his skill is quite breathtaking. But things take a tilt into the unknown when the band's other kora player, Sekou Kouyate amplifies his instrument. While you know it's still a kora, the things he does with it turn it on its head — it's little wonder he's been called the Jimi Hendrix of the instrument. The sound becomes totally new, exciting waterfalls of notes that are palpably thrilling. The rhythm section of bass and percussion anchor it all, and keep the groove going quite effortlessly. This is trail-blazing, purely West African music of a kind not heard in far too long, and completely irresistible.


Born: 1967 in Koundara, Guinea

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Ba Cissoko is not only a master of the kora and one of the instrument's leading proponents, but a member of griot (master singers, kora players, and storytellers) legacy. So much so that the Cissoko name means nothing less than kora mastery. Though his father was a nationally recognized artist, his instruction did not hook young Ba on the instrument or minstrel lifestyle, as he preferred soccer to both music and his studies. When his uncle M'Baty Kouyate learned of Ba's indifference, he offered to...
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Sabolan, Ba Cissoko
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