Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Mamadou Diabate, kora – Douga Mansa – World Village

Mali musician makes traditional music that transcends genre.

Published on June 1, 2010

Mamadou Diabate, kora – Douga Mansa – World Village

Mamadou Diabate, kora – Douga Mansa – World Village 468082, 60:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

Douga Mansa is Mamadou Diabate’s fourth album and it’s a return to the solo format of his second album, 2003’s Behmanka. For those unfamiliar with Diabate and his instrument, the kora, it can be hard to believe that all the sounds you hear are being made in real time on one lone instrument. Diabate’s kora can sound like an acoustic guitar, a harp, and a harpsichord all at the same time. What’s even harder to believe is that the kora is played with only the thumbs and index fingers of each hand, with the other fingers holding the hand posts on either side of  complex instrument.

Douga Mansa begins with “Toutou Diarra”, which, according to the liner notes, is a praise song for the 19th century king of Bamana, the pre-colonial empire that was located in what is now Mali (which is Diabate’s birthplace). Stately but twisting, “Toutou Diarra” sounds like an African waltz. “Bi Allah La Ke” is a Gambian song that has a melody that’s equal parts folksy and courtly. The title track is a tribute to the West African vulture that originated with Diabate’s father and was used as the theme to Radio Mali’s 6 o’clock news. “Bolomabory” is wholly improvised, and according to Diabate, an exercise in trying "to get to the parts of the kora not touched in the album’s composed repertoire."

Diabate’s music is rhythmically and melodically complex but also completely accessible. His playing could just as easily be appreciated by fans of string quartets as it could be by fans of Delta blues. Douga Mansa is an enchanting album and I highly recommend it!

TrackList: Toutou Diarra, Bi Allah La Ke, Douga Mansa, Diyabarana, Taabara, Bolomabory, Joulafassa, Donsoke, Kora Mali, Segou Tara, Kora Gabou, Soundiata Keita    

– Daniel Krow

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