with wishing you all Happy Easter and many resurrections
to come, I have the pleasure of informing you that, officially
at least, Spring is sprung in the Big Fug. It must have
done, because they did something with the clocks a while
back; theres a profusion of blossom in leafy Forest
Hill and crows are mating in the leafery. The temperature
tells a different tale but at least daylight now extends
until 8 pm.
But enough of my mothers countrys beastly
cold clime. Im in a distinctly sunny mood, which
probably originated in Mali, West Africa, as Im
listening to kora king Toumani latest album Boulevard
Even for Toumani, this is a unique album (sadly and coincidentally
released within days of the death of his great compatriot,
friend and collaborator the guitarist Ali Farka Toure,
king of the African Blues, with whom Toumani recorded
the exquisite award-winning album Heart of The Moon).
Toumani comes from a long line of Mande griots, his musical
roots stretching back hundreds of years but hes
made his mark by reworking some of the Mande traditions.
Before him the kora, (a 21-stringed flute-like instrument,
the fretboard mounted on a gourd soundbox) functioned
as accompaniment, rather than a solo instrument, in much
the same restricted role as the flute in the typical Cuban
Toumani developed a virtuosic triple style: playing bass,
rhythm and solo lines simultaneously, launching the kora
as a solo instrument with all the complexity and range
of a sitar. Listening to his 1987 solo album Kaira on
which he plays entirely unaccompanied, many have been
fooled into believing its a band playing, rather
than one fabulously gifted musician.
Since the early 1990s, Toumanis Hogon nightclub
in the Malian capital of Bamako has hosted a series of
Friday night jam sessions that have attracted musicians,
both traditional and contemporary from across the old
Mande Empire: Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Bourkina Fasso and
The Hogons fluctuating houseband, The Symmetric
Orchestra, led by soloist Toumani, has produced in Boulevard
de lIndependance, which Toumani describes as a
kind of musical vision of pan-Africanism, a meeting
between different generations in which traditional instruments
like the ngoni guitar, balafon (wooden vibraphone) kora
and percussion are joined by electric guitars, bass, and
drum-kit to produce a contemporary sound scheme with strong
traditional aspectsold songs are given new arrangements,
while new songs receive traditional treatment.
Unsurprisingly, the track that is guaranteed to get the
Hogon sessions moving into power dance mode is Africa
Challenge, a stunning Malian salsa with the kora taking
the role of the piano in a wild montuno section.
The whole Symmetric Orchestra is due in the Big Fug later
Besides Toumani and the hints of spring, another reason
to be cheerful was last weeks reception at the T&T
High Commission for some of the Soca Warriors.
With the combined help of Miss T&T UK; Theresa Mahadeo,
lone representative of the Shiv Shakti Dancers; Tobago
Crusoe; Soca Warriors Dennis Lawrence; Shaka Hislop; Brent
Sancho; Carlos Edwards; Ian Cox and Helena B, the reigning
UK calypso monarch and a sumptuous spread, the night turned
into a true Trini lime.
With plate spilling over with curried duck, stewed chicken,
lobster, blue food and dumpling all washed down with non-stop
Carib, I knew then Spring had truly arrived.
If the limes going to be this good in Germany, Ich
bin unterweg and I need to get in some training
and up my stamina for the celebrations when we beat England.
See you in the stade.