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The Mandé Variations

Toumani Diabaté

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iTunes Editors’ Notes

The Mande Variations is a spare and haunting new effort from internationally renowned Malian Kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate. Though Diabate has released a wealth of superb collaborative efforts, The Mande Variations marks his first proper solo effort in twenty years. Concieved as a tribute to the music and culture of the Mande dynasty, who established a flourishing empire in Mali during the sixteenth century, Diabate’s playing here is delicate and unearthly. On tracks like the sprawling opener “Si Naani” and the gently meandering “Ismael Drame” he explores a series of subtle minor chord progressions that call to mind the middle eastern inflected melodies of traditional Ethiopian music or the early twentieth century experiments of classical innovators like Bela Bartok. From the outset it’s clear that the dreamy fluidity of these compositions marks a significant departure from much of Diabate’s harsher, more blues inflected works of earlier decades. Startlingly beautiful and refreshingly unorthodox, The Mande Variations is a work of bold innovation and imaginative genius.

Customer Reviews


This is the deliciously fortifying nourishment for the soul one discovers only once in a decade, maybe two, or three. The first time for me was an 8-track of "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. Second was hearing "The Koln Concert" by Keith Jarrett, on vinyl. Third was Dianne Reeves singing "My Funny Valentine", at "The Comeback In, in Venice CA, when she was just starting out. She was (and still is) transformational. "Clarity" by John Mayer is a recent example. We hear a man much wiser than his years, perfectly blending his melodies with poetry. When Toumani shares his journey with us, like all these other artists, he is healing us in a his own, very deep way.

Doesn't waste a note...and takes you away to Mali

Unlike some African artists, Toumani Diabate doesn't numb us with repetitive rhythyms on this album. Each track has its own character, firing your imagination or soothing your soul. The kora's thin, zither-like sound transports is not of this top-40 world. Listen and be entranced.

master 1 |ˈmastər| or expergeniuoso

a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity. While this dictionary definition does not come close to describing the level toumani diabate has attained as an artist. you could use the made up word list above to describe him. I can't begin to express just how much I enjoy this recording. Simply put it is amazing!


Born: 1965 in Bamako, Mali

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A master of the kora (21-string West African harp), Toumani Diabaté has brought the traditional music of his native Mali to the attention of an international audience with a series of well-received solo albums and some unlikely, but acclaimed, collaborations. Although he came from a family of musicians, Diabaté (born August 10, 1965) taught himself to play the kora from an early age, as his father, who also played the instrument, was often away touring. He developed a style of playing that, while...
Full Bio
The Mandé Variations, Toumani Diabaté
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  • $10.99
  • Genres: World, Music, Africa
  • Released: Feb 26, 2008

Customer Ratings