Toumani Diabate Jarabi: Best Of Toumani Diabate

Jarabi is an excellent collection of the pre-eminent kora player of the last decade and a half. Diabate hails from Mali, born into a family of griots (musical historians). His remarkable mastery of the complex 21-string harp was already evident with his first album, recorded in 1987 when he was just 22 years old. His technique is superb, blindingly fast, exceedingly melodic and harmonically adventurous. He is renowned not only for his playing excellence, but for his willingness to collaborate with musicians from many cultures. While much of West Africa, including fellow griot Salif Keita, pursued the slickest synth sounds of the time, Diabate sought to fuse acoustic traditions with like-minded collaborators. His vision is ably collected on Jarabi. It’s a joy to revisit his groundbreaking work with nouveau flamenco band Ketama from their outstanding Songhai albums. Their ease of communication created a compelling mix that ranks among the best cross-cultural Afro-fusion experiments ever attempted. His collaboration with bluesman Taj Mahal is more rhythmically straightforward, but just as inspired. The song selection on Jarabi gives equal time to fusion and more traditional pieces, and is a lovely listen throughout. (Hannibal)