Ballake Sissoko: Griot for peace
A while ago, in Paris, I lived in a garret and sang the hooks for an Algerian hip hop outfit called Mortel. The music scene in the city was outlandish, with Turks, Brazilians, and Indonesians bringing genres in to blend with electronic music heads and French country revivalists.
Musicians I met out at shows lived comfortably off little and had free health care. In that panoply of shiny Parisian nightlife, some of my favorite friends were from Mali. One of them, Mamadou, keeps in touch on FB, he left Paris to run security for a royal family living in Cairo. I think of my friends this week when I hear news of French troops sent into Mali.
At Peace is the title of the new record from Malian artist Ballaké Sissoko coming out February 5th (Six Degrees Records). His new record is the second collaboration with French trip hop cellist Vincent Ségal, who has played with Cesaria Evora and Blackalicious. Sissoko plays the kora, a lute-harp indigenous to Mali and together the two musicians forge a global approach to chamber music that results in a classical style with a fresh edge. The record also features Malian players on guitar, balafon and ngoni, the African ancestor of the banjo.
Sissoko’s father was a renowned kora player, or griot, and Sissoko has brought the tradition to the world stage playing with blues great Taj Mahal and all across Europe. At Peace is music actively aimed at healing. It brings classical genres from Paris and Vienna along with music passed down by master griots of across Mali and weaves them into modern times as musical diplomacy.
Ballake Sissoko performs with Vincent Ségal February 28th at Florence Gould Hall at The French Institute.