Graham Reid | | 1 min read
While many international music writers closer to the artists have been finding new hyperboles to acclaim the gifted young kora player Sidiki Diabate alongside his father Toumani (an accepted genius, the pre-eminent kora player of our time and a griot with about seven centuries behind him), there's a dissenting opinion which comes from a distance and just takes this CD as it finds it.
It's this: as exceptional as some of these 10 pieces are (and the beautiful Claudia and Salma is undeniably lovely, it's about the daughters of Diabate's manager) there's quite a lot of musical MOR occupied here. So despite many of the titles referring to important social and political figures in Mali, the uplifting instrumentals don't have much emotional gravitas for those beyond the region.
By way of example Toguna Industries apparently acknowledges the company which moved accumulated rubbish to the outskirts of the capital Bamako after the 2012 coup. Quite how this romantic music presumes those at a distance will get the implications of that goes straight past me I'm afraid.
And Rachid Ouiguini named for the Algerian scholar is superb, but in an archetypal Mali-meets-crossover flamenco way.
More immediate and obvious are the aching Lampedusa named for the Italian mid-Mediterranean island which has become the desperate destination for African refugees, and Bansang which evokes the Gambian town where Toumani's dad learned his craft.
That said, this is a very beautiful and genealogically significant album . . . but in the consumer context which world music -- like any other idiom -- exists, it's also just a record. It's importance accrues no greater moral or cultural importance for those at a distance from its socio-political and cultural import, who should be forgiven for just being taken in by its evident beauty.
Beyond the title references (aside from those who care to go beyond them) this lovely album may not quite the political milestone some Western champions think it is.
But it is lovely. Is it wrong to be so shallow?