Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze at the Crossroads of Griot and Jazz
You can hear an audio version of this blog with music.
The African kora is an instrument that gently seduces you with it’s sound. Made from a large calabash gourd cut in half, it’s covered in cow hide and has a long poll protruding from it’s body that’s hung with 21 strings in 2 courses. It’s the traditional instrument of the African griot or storyteller. Ablaye Cissoko is from a family of griots in Senegal that goes back centuries.
Ablaye Cissoko: The kora is an instrument of the griots and it’s a heritage that’s transmitted from the father to the son.
Volker Goetze: His grand grand grand grand father, probably in the 1300s, created the kora and developed this instrument, so he’s in a long line of people who developed this instrument
Volker Goetze is a German musician who plays trumpet with Ablaye Cissoko on the album, Sira. It’s not a pairing that immediately leaps to mind.
Volker Goetze: Yeah, the first reaction of people when I tell them I play trumpet with the kora, if they know what the kora is, they go “What? How can that work?”
But then they hear the music that Volker Goetze and Ablaye Cissoko recorded on Sira and they understand. When Volker Goetze met Cissoko a couple of years ago he was astounded by his extraordinary kora technique. Then he heard him singing.
Volker Goetze: At first he just played kora and didn’t sing and we were all astonished by his virtuosity and musicianship and three years later he started to sing and bring in his own tunes and we all cried.
Volker Goetze matches Cissoko in emotional nuance. He plays much of the music with a mute on his trumpet and flugelhorn which takes his brass instrument into the dynamic range of the kora. The two musicians sound like they grew up together in the Senegal plains as they converse on their instruments.
Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze have a CD out called Sira on ObliqSound. On Monday’s Echoes, 11/30/09, you can hear them playing live in what is one of the most beautiful concerts we’ve recorded this year. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.