Arts Council of Tamworth is excited to offer the community the rare opportunity to hear the nimble-fingered Mamadou Diabate, a Manding kora musician from Mali, play music traditional to his people. The Boston Globe calls Mamadou’s kora playing “a musical adventure in the best sense of the word.” NAPRA Review goes on from there: “an adventure that is exotic yet somehow familiar…music so listenable and fresh.” Mamadou will perform Saturday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m at the Salyards Center for the Arts in Conway, NH.
The kora is a 21-string harp played by griots, or jelis as they are known among the Manding people of West Africa. Jelis are more than just traditional musicians. They use music and sometimes oratory to preserve and sustain people’s consciousness of the past, a past that stretches back to the 13th century when the Manding king Sunjata Keita consolidated the vast empire of Mali, covering much of West Africa. The stories of these glory days and the times since remain important touchstones for people today—not only for the Manding, but for many citizens of Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Senegal.
Mamadou Diabate was born in Kita, a Malian city long known as a center for the arts and culture of the Manding people. As the name Diabate indicates, Mamadou is a griot from the Mandinka West African jeli family. His musical lineage goes back seven centuries, to the time of Sunjata Keita himself. Mamadou’s father Djelimory was, like his son, a well-known kora player. Mamadou went to live with him in Bamako when he was four. When it came time for him to return to Kita and go to school, Mamadou knew the kora was his destiny. His father had taught him how to play, and from then on he devoted himself to the kora, watching and listening to other players, studying with other master kora musicians. Before long, Mamadou left school and began playing kora for local jeli singers and traveling through the region to play at the ceremonies where modern jelis ply their trade, mostly baptisms and weddings.
In his early twenties Mamadou was invited to travel to the United States with a group of Manding musicians and cultural authorities. Following a successful tour, Mamdou decided to continue his work in the United States and since then has made his home in and around New York. He plays frequently with visiting Malian stars, and has performed at the United Nations, Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
He has also delved into uncharted waters, jamming with all manner of expert musicians from jazz luminaries to masters of blues. His recording credits have expanded as he has laid tracks with artists ranging from Irish soloist Susan McKeown to jazz bassist Ben Allison and Benin’s celebrated Angélique Kidjo. Today Mamadou performs around North America and Europe. Playing with diverse musicians allows him to bring the kora to new audiences. At the same time, he remains rooted in the traditions of the Manding kora and his griot heritage, and is one of only a handful of remaining kora players keeping the tradition alive. RootsWorld praised Mamadou’s “Sparkling technique…compelling rhythmic groove…[and] flair for making this ancient instrument sound as though it was invented yesterday.” “Mamadou Diabate just makes brilliant music…beautiful, soulful precision…exceptionally creative,” raves The Miami New Times. To hear Mamadou in performance is to experience the beauty and freshness of the kora and to participate in the ancient heritage of Mali.
Tickets for this performance are $5 for children 12 and under, $10 for students, and $20 for adults. They can be purchased easily and securely online here; no fee is charged and tickets will be held for you at the door. Tickets can also be purchased at The Other Store in Tamworth or by calling 603-323-8104.
This show is made possible through the generous support of season sponsor Silver Lake Home Center, presenting sponsor Meredith Village Savings Bank, event sponsors The Mad Planter and Settlers’ Green, co-sponsors Greenside Company, Paul L. King, and North Country Fair/Valley Jewelers, and media sponsors Magic 104FM and 93.5 WMWV and The Conway Daily Sun.