thu 24/04/2014

CD: Ballaké Sissoko - At Peace | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ballaké Sissoko - At Peace

Malian kora virtuoso offers a serene remedy to the turbulent events in his homeland

Ballaké Sissoko: master of the Malian kora

Toumani Diabaté is the uncontested star of the Malian kora, but his Bamako neighbour Ballaké Sissoko is a close rival. His natural modesty, reflected in the coolness of his musicianship, has prevented him from acquiring the international status of Diabaté, but what he lacks in worldly ambition is amply compensated by an unassuming yet heart-warming spirituality.

At Peace is in some ways a sequel to Chamber Music, the award-winning album Sissoko made with the versatile French cellist Vincent Ségal. Ségal, the producer of the new CD, has avoided merely serving up Vol. 2. This time around, the kora player is the main focus although, in the spirit of African musical aesthetics, there is much ensemble playing, in which solo work offers a sensitive response to others in the group. There are three exquisite solo tracks, “Maimouna”, “Nalésonko” and “Kalanso”, but on the others Sissoko is joined by Badian Diabate (12-string guitar), Aboubacar Diabaté (guitar) and Fasséry Diabate (balafon). Ségal adds a few atmospheric washes of cello, never seeking to dominate.

As the CD’s title implies, and in the spirit of Chamber Music, which delivered effortless serenity, this is a calm and reflective album, the perfect antidote to the turmoil that has swept through Mali and all but silenced the country’s music. The quality of the recording – made in a cosy Angoulême studio – is exceptional, and the intricate texture of the assembled strings, a cascade of almost liquid lacework, is captured with immediacy. Perhaps not surprisingly the album’s highpoint, “N’tomikorobougou”, was recorded at night in the courtyard of Sissoko’s Bamako compound. The piece features entrancing interplay between peals of kora counterpoint and harmonic-rich 12-string guitar, set delicately against the hypnotic chirping of crickets. This is music that makes it feel very good to be alive.

This calm and reflective album is the perfect antidote to the turmoil that has swept through Mali and all but silenced the country’s music

rating

5

Share this article

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Use to create page breaks.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

Newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday - free!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters