Graham Reid | | 2 min read
The magical and mercurial sound of the kora – a 21-string instrument from West Africa has become familiar on the Womad circuit in the past few decades and names like Toumani Diabate, Seckou Keita would be familiar enough to readers on Elsewhere.
In early 2019 we also introduced singer/kora player Sona Jobarteh, one of the few women players.
In 1979 Folkways Records released this album of recordings in Senegal and The Gambia by Marc Pevar with three musicians – Alhaji Bai Konte, Dembo Konte and Ma Lamini Jobate – from the region.
These five pieces are perhaps for most listeners some distance from the more polished sound they are familiar with and certainly the vocals in some places sound unduly harsh.
But this is just how it was at that time before the kora and the musicians became internationally known.
That said, when the kora is central – and there are some wonderful and lengthy instrumental passages here – this has a timeless and meditative quality.
This album is released as part of three vinyl reissue alongside two other equally historic recordings, Tuareg Music of the Southern Sahara and Lord Invader's Calypso Travels.
You can find out more about them here.
Here are some images by Susan Gunn Pevar from the album cover used with permission. The first few show a kora being made by Bai and Dembo Konte with apprentices, the others are of the musicians.
Bai and Dembo Konte
Dembo Konte and Alhaji Bai Konte, photo by Marc Pevar
Ma Lamini Jobate, photo by Marc Pevar
Women singers Yangkui Kuiyate (centre left) and Jabu Sau (center right) playing iron percussion instruments, photo by Marc Pevar