The Afro-Brazilian Project The Afro-Brazilian Project

According to African scholar Gaoussou Diawara, Abubakari II, a 14th century Malian king, set off from the Atlantic coast with a crew of 2000 and eventually discovered Brazil. But because he never returned, the griots who would otherwise have sung his praises never spoke of him again out of some combination of shame and respect. Whether he did or not, there are certainly enough musical and cultural resonances between the two cultures to make this a compelling theory. A new project by the British kora player Ravi provides a kind of retroactive missing link, thanks to some very fine musicianship from his Brazilian hosts. I love the kora and always shiver a little when I hear its brittle patterns and flurrying solos. Ravi takes the instrument out of this familiar role and finds a genuine place for it in breezy bossa novas and steamy sambas —a kind of alternative universe for the African harp. When Toumani Diabate, Ketama and Danny Thompson got together for the Songhai project, people raved about this exciting new cross-cultural territory. Only it wasn’t, really. It was pretty much what you’d expect if you put a bunch of really great musicians in a studio and let them come up with a common language. The Afro-Brazilian Project actually does create something brand new — by reuniting sounds that may have been separated 700 years ago. (Arc)