First, a short and gripping film about the construction of the kora, a West African 21-stringed instrument common in Mali. This was filmed by a Canadian woman filmmaker, Claudine Pommier, in Mali, and features Toumani Diabate, probably the world’s most foremost kora player (as his father was before him–family oral tradition says there have been 71 generations of musicians along the patrilineal line).
I was fortunate enough to see the World Kora Trio last week. This group exemplifies world music in the best way, with Chérif Soumano being a kora player from Mali, Eric Longsworth an electric cello player from the USA, and Jean-Luc Di Fraya a percussionist and vocalist from France. Longsworth, fluent in English and French, probably talks the most for introductions and explanations, at least in an English-language setting. This group was brought by the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which is best known for the 3-day folk/world music extravaganza every July on Jericho Beach, but which offers concerts with interesting musicians all through the year.
The kora, as played by Soumano, particularly in combination with the electric cello, often had an other-worldly sound to it. As sometimes happens, the experience of hearing is too intense, and I must close my eyes. The three musicians worked as a seamless unit. Sometimes the music felt like jazz, with a different cast of instruments. Using words to describe sounds is never completely satisfactory. This video may help convey the experience somewhat.