First off, let me say that this album has a special place in my heart. I was living in Florence, studying art, and I had left all my music in the US. But to my surprise, the school I was studying at had a few albums that had been copied onto the computers by former students. This was one of those albums, and let me tell you, it saved my life. From that point on, whenever anything was wrong, be it a stressful plane flight, a personal loss, or a part of a painting that just wouldn’t work, all I had to do was play this album, and everything became alright.
From the opening notes of Queen Bee, my breathing slows, my pulse regulates itself. The world becomes a better place. And yet it never approaches a state of complacency or boredom. The overlapping of different traditional styles and sounds provides a source of tension which is continually transformed into tranquility, and an edge that draws friction out of the harmony. This music breathes, as life itself.
This living, breathing quality comes from Toumani’s incredible sense of improvisation and Taj’s rock-steady rhythmic foundation. The successful integration of their disparate musical styles is a testament to the experience and skill of the players, who are at the vanguard of cross-cultural musical projects. No one has been more vital to the cross-fertilization of the blues with other musics than Taj Mahal, who has combined calypso, reggae, jazz, rock, Hawaiian, and East Indian music with the blues over his 40+ year career.
Similarly, “more than any other artist, Toumani Diabaté is responsible for introducing the kora—a 21-string harp unique to West Africa—to audiences around the world…who is at the vanguard of a new generation of Malian griots who are constantly looking for ways of modernizing and still honoring their traditional music.” He comes from 71 generations of Kora players, and yet his style is utterly his own. Together with Taj, they combine their talents with those of fellow kora master Ballaké Sissoko and singer Kassé-Mady Diabaté, to round out this supergroup of traditional Malian musicians.
There are few albums that combine blues and African music as well as this. It would serve well to introduce anyone to either musical style. In my opinion, it’s the best of Taj Mahal’s world music albums, and Toumani’s most successful international communication.
And while this album could be criticized by purists on either side of the ocean, Toumani has this to say: “The griot’s role is making communication between people, but not just historical communication. In Mali I can work in the traditional way; elsewhere I can work in a different way. Why not?”
Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate – Kunlanjan
get it here
MR | mp3 192+kbps vbr | w/o cover | 80mb