The world famous Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté is to receive an Honorary Doctorate from The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in recognition of his impact in raising awareness of the West African kora as a world-class instrument.
Recognised by many as the greatest living player of the kora, the 21-string West African harp, Toumani has been instrumental in forging new forms of musical expression and reaching new international audiences. Toumani’s two flamenco-crossover albums Songhai / Songhai 2 (1988/94) which featured the Spanish New Flamenco group Ketama and Danny Thompson are recognised as his first international breakthroughs. Many collaborations were to follow which have included stars of the pop world including Icelandic pop singer Bjork and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) who is huge fan of his music (Albarns 2002 album Mali Music featured Toumani alongside other Malian musicans such as Afel Bocoum).
Many that have witnessed Toumani performing live have said it is an unforgettable experience. Damon Albarn compared it to a spiritual experience in an interview which you can watch below:
Toumani comes from a Griot family that boasts an oral tradition spread over 70 generations of musicians preceding him. Within his wider family are some notable musicians including his cousin Sona Jobarteh who is the first female kora player to come from a Griot family. It was also his father, Sidiki senior, who recorded the first ever kora album, the classic Mali: Ancient Strings, in 1970.
New Album: Toumani & Sidiki
Toumani’s 23 year old son Sidiki is already a star in Mali, but not just as a notable kora player….alongside rapper ‘Iba One’ he is one half of the country’s premier hip-hop duo, who fill the 20,000 seater Modibo Keita stadium.
Despite his hip-hop fame he is also has a deep knowledge of Mande culture and a formidable technique on the kora, a gift he shares with his father on their new album Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit Records).
Talking of the collaboration Sidiki said “It’s a dream to play with my fathers. Yes I’m a hip-hop artist, but I love and respect my roots as a kora player, I want to know more. It’s my chance to learn directly from my father. It’s extra special because my father is my idol.”
Toumani & Sidiki will play Glastonbury this year on Sunday 29th June on the Pyramid Stage.
Toumani & Sidiki is out now on World Circuit