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Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra [extended]

  • Kulanjan [Hannibal, 1999] A-
  • New Ancient Strings [Rykodisc, 1999] Dud
  • Mali Music [Astralwerks, 2002] **
  • Boulevard de l'Indépendance [Nonesuch, 2006] A-
  • The Mandé Variations [Nonesuch, 2008] Dud

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate: Kulanjan [Hannibal, 1999]
No longer does Mahal talk a bigger African diaspora than he walks. He deserves his top billing, but every other musician on this piece of serendipity is a West African retrofitting a simple little studio in Athens GA. Like the guitar hotshot he'd have turned into Stateside, costar Diabate is a virtuoso and nothing more, and his Manding songs are mostly some kind of change. But when his kora echoes the happy-hollering "Ol' Georgie Buck" or the deep-Delta "Catfish Blues," those straightforward old blues take on a filigree Diabate's percussive confederates can go to work on. And when Mahal's piano strides beneath the balafon of a Diabate named Lasana, the rhythms canter so comically you wonder who said open sesame. A-

Toumani Diabate with Balaka Sisoko: New Ancient Strings [Rykodisc, 1999] Dud

Mali Music: Mali Music [Astralwerks, 2002]
Toumani Diabate and Afel Bacoum make better ethnotechno with Damon Albarn than they could have with Byrne & Eno, or by themselves ("The Djembe," "Bamako City") **

Boulevard de l'Indépendance [Nonesuch, 2006]
Conceived and directed by Malian kora luminary Diabaté, this grandly danceable pan-Mandé big band aims to balance modernism and neotraditionalism as it reconceives Sundiata Keita's empire for a democracy that only arrived in 1992. Nine tracks feature six lead singers and 26 musicians, a Pee Wee Ellis horn section chips in, and the material is shamelessly surefire--griot classics, horn-tutti salsa, an apt reminder that the Wolof word for "yes" is "wow," and the finest hippopotamus metaphor in God's creation. That would be "Mali Sadio," meaning "hippopotamus with white legs" and concerning the slaughter of such a beast by a homo sapiens with white skin. Too often in "world music," the kora lulls, slipping exotically into didgeridoo mode. Diabaté has won a Grammy playing that game. Here he rules, and he rocks. A-

Toumani Diabate: The Mandé Variations [Nonesuch, 2008] Dud