by carl wilson

Guest Post: Afrofest & Toumani Diabaté

toumani.jpg

Zoilus aide-de-camp Erella Ganon writes:

Afrofest is one of the best ways Torontonians have to investigate a wide range of music from that continent. Most performances are available without an admission charge, and my advice is to wander to Queen's Park this weekend and just catch whoever is on the stage. Normally my faith in programmers is not as solid, but the line up with this incarnation of Afrofest is without low point from what I gather. Expect a huge selection of food and items recently brought over from yonder for sale. The weather is predicted to be cooperative. Don't try, however, to glean information from their website; it is one of the least useful I have seen. One might expect, a few days before the festival, that the site would give an approximation (or at least an idea) of which day a particular artist is playing. Two things I do know for sure: The popular Mahotella Queens won't be appearing at all; they've been replaced by Cape Verdian newcomer, Lura. Which day or time, is anyone's guess. And Malian kora player and griot Toumani Diabaté will play Harbourfront Centre's main concert stage Thursday night on the bill with Abdoulaye Diabaté (who also will be at Queen's Park at some point, this weekend).

The kora is a 21-stringed instrument with a gourd as a resonator. Sounding like a cross between a harp and flamenco guitar, the strings are plucked with both hands. Kora players have traditionally come from families of griots - historians, genealogists, musicians and storytellers who pass their skills on to their descendants. Toumani can trace his griot ancestry back at least 53 generations and Abdoulaye Diabaté can trace back 70 generations. Can you imagine? In my family we cannot even trace the countries of birth more than 3 generations. If you were from Mali or Guinea and felt a calling to be a musician, it likely would be discouraged unless it was in your lineage. Last time I saw Toumani Diabaté was years ago at the Phoenix club. He was touring with blues guitarist Taj Mahal. The interplay between these two very subtle musicians was a delight. This week he is appearing with his new group, the Symmetric Orchestra, incorporating his traditional song styles along with new ideas and arrangements. - Erella Ganon

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 04 at 5:15 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)

 

COMMENTS

Actually, furthering the Diabaté confusion -- the opener was Katenen Dioubaté, and she's Guinean-Canadian.
http://www.myspace.com/katenen

Posted by spitz on July 8, 2007 7:39 AM

 

 

Well,
I was completely underwhelmed by Abdoulaye Diabate. I don't know if you caught any of that set.

At no point did the group seem to find their groove as a unit, though each musician appeared to be proficient on their own.
Awfully sloppy playing from good musicians, I got the feeling she is no joy to perform with.

When Toumani played, I was transported.
Were these the same benches I was sitting on an hour ago? Everyone appeared to be more beautiful when his fingers worked on the fishing line strings with remarkable dexterity. I loved the part where he was explaining the mechanics of kora sound-making and remembered that he did this the last time he played in Toronto. "All 21 strings pass over this bridge here". It sounded so poetic in his heavily accented English. He's a master, this is why he is a griot, someone who accepts his calling with honour.
The praise song, when the tall singer in the long silky ice bue caftan was hailing toumani's virtues was touching. I got the feeling Toumani found this a little humbling.

It was moving to see the level of respect the band members showed their leader. I had never seen that before. After thanking the audience, each member shook Toumani's hand and bowed to him. I know what you mean about the showmanship, but I found the sincerity to be high enough to carry it.

Posted by erella on July 6, 2007 1:55 PM

 

 

Well,
I was completely underwhelmed by Abdoulaye Diabate. I don't know if you caught any of that set.

At no point did the group seem to find their groove as a unit, though each musician appeared to be proficient on their own.
Awfully sloppy playing from good musicians, I got the feeling she is no joy to perform with.

When Toumani played, I was transported.
Were these the same benches I was sitting on an hour ago? Everyone appeared to be more beautiful when his fingers worked on the fishing line strings with remarkable dexterity. I loved the part where he was explaining the mechanics of kora sound-making and remembered that he did this the last time he played in Toronto. "All 21 strings pass over this bridge here". It sounded so poetic in his heavily accented English. He's a master, this is why he is a griot, someone who accepts his calling with honour.
The praise song, when the tall singer in the long silky ice bue caftan was hailing toumani's virtues was touching. I got the feeling Toumani found this a little humbling.

It was moving to see the level of respect the band members showed their leader. I had never seen that before. After thanking the audience, each member shook Toumani's hand and bowed to him. I know what you mean about the showmanship, but I found the sincerity to be high enough to carry it.

Posted by erella on July 6, 2007 1:55 PM

 

 

oh, thanksomuch Erella! that site is dizzying.
btw: didn't you find the Diabaté show last night had a bit of a Vegas vibe? Especially the closing surf-esque jam.
I mean this in the best possible way.

Posted by spitz on July 6, 2007 10:00 AM

 

 

Thanks for the comment.

I hadn't seen the piece that Li did until after I wrote this one..
Oh well. I always appreciate her perspective.

Do you know this website?
http://abdoulayediabate.calabashmusic.com/
Calabash Music is a pretty comprehensive one-stop-shop fair trade place to investigate music from far away. Their prices are good and I understand the money actually reaches the artists' hands in short order.

Abdoulaye Diabate entered my radar through Salif Keita and Mory Kante. Living in the Ivory Coast in the 70's, she was in a huge band with fluxuating band members. These superstars were 2 of the members at some point. I expect the show to be memorable.

By the way, I am crazy about an Indonesian yodel band called Marsada and their song "Baringin Saba Tonga" which you can familiarize yourself with on Calabash. The photos of them blow my mind because I sort of expected them to be wearing Vegas style, gold lamé outfits from what the music sounds like.

Email me if you want me to send you more info.
Fantastic.

Erella
wow (at) erella.com

Posted by Erella on July 5, 2007 5:45 PM

 

 

Yes, I am terribly excited! Thanks for this, Erella.

What do you know about Abdoulaye Diabate? I'm worried I'm not going to make the early part of the set.

There's a lovely piece in the globe about Toumani, too:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070703.wdiabate03/BNStory/Entertainment/

Posted by spitz on July 5, 2007 3:41 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson