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Taumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra

The 21-stringed kora harp, the eternal companion to all stories spun by griots, can only be found in West Arfica. Each of its sounds is a separate story flowing at the same time from the bottom of the player’s heart, and from the very heart of the land famous for its breathtaking views of the savannah. Thanks to Tumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra we will have an opportunity to hear how this astonishing musical idiolect transforms into world music, where the distinction between the global and local exists only in theory.

Toumani Diabaté was born in 1960, in Bamako, capital of Mali, in a family where the ability to play the kora had been cultivated for seventy-one generations. At the age of five, he was already able to play the instrument fluently. By the time he was nineteen, he had travelled the whole continent with the Kandii Kouyate, only to set for Europe a little later. In 1986, he recorded his first album, Kaira. In 1988, Diabaté met the Spanish flamenco group “Ketama”; their friendship yielded two records: Songhai I and Songhai II. In 1992, the first album recorded with Symmetric Orchestra, Shake The Whole World, was released. It only confirmed Nick Gold’s pertinent remark that Toumani is a genuine virtuoso and master whose creations not only confirm the history of music cultivated and revered for centuries, but also make rendering its unusual spirituality to contemporary listeners possible.

Subsequent years meant collaboration with artists from all over the world and filling the gap between the traditionally African and Afro-American music (Kuljana recorded with bluesman Taj Mahal, or MALIcool, recorded with free jazz trombonist, Roswell Ruddle), as well as active involvement in preservation and development of Mali’s cultural legacy (New Ancient Strings recorded in 1999 with Ballake Sissoko, falls in this category). In 2004, Toumani began work on three records for World Circuit label: In the Heart of the Moon (Grammy for the best traditional album music), Savanne recorded with Ali Farka Touré, and Boulevard de l’Indépendance recorded with Symmetric Orchestra. Latest news: Toumani’s harp contributed to the creation of Volta, Björk’s latest record.