Tag: Ballaké Sissoko Djourou feat. Sona Jobarteh

Acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player Ballaké Sissoko comes from an equally acclaimed and deeply musical family: Sissoko is the song of the late, legendary kora master Djelimady Sissoko, best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father.

Tragicaally, Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take on the role of the family breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in Ensemble Instrumental Du Mail.

Interestingly, Ballakè Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of the scope the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which has inspired and led to a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe including Vincent SegalToumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Now, as you may recall Nø Førmat Records released Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou earlier this year. The album features solo compositions while continuing upon his long-held reputation for collaborating with a cast of diverse and unexpected artists including Nouvelle Vague’Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others. 

Deriving its name from the Bambara word for string Djourou can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. Interestingly, the label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he taake teh time to confirm enriching and challenging parternships with artists, who were also fans of Sissoko’s work. The album took a painstaking yet fruitful two years to write and record.

Over the past couple of months I’ve written about three of Djourou‘s released singles:

  • Frotter Les Mains:” Deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” the mediative track is centered around the simple percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands back and forth, shimmering plucked kora and Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino’s dexterous and heady bars in French. While being a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and empathetic connection in a world that’s often batshit insane, the two artists make a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — with an important reminder that hip hop is the lingua franca of post-modern life. 
  • Album title track “Djourou,” which sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh. Centered around the duo holding a musical conversation by trading expressive and shimmering, melodic kora lines paired with ethereal interwoven vocals, the track finds its collaborations making connections with across both contemporary African borders and through time. Interestingly, Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa. 
  • Kora,” a collaboration with Nouveau Vague’s Camille centered around the electric and playful interplay between Camille’s coquettish vocals and Sissoko’s expressive yet melodic bursts of kora. The song itself is a love letter to the kora that suggests that the instrument holds an ancient, mystical power.

Djourou‘s latest single “Jeu Sur La Symphonie Fantasique 2” is an album bonus track that features Patrick Messina (clarinet) and frequent collaborator Vincent Segal (cello). This particular collaboration can trace its origins back to when the trio were all playing at the annual Berlioz Festival held in France: The trio were invited to create a piece to mark the 150th anniversary of Hector Berlioz’s death. The end result is a gorgeous re-imagining of “Symphonie Fantasique” that focuses on the composition’s “March To The Scaffold” segment that manages to draw parallels between the martial themes of the original composition and the historic battles of Sissoko’s Mandinka people. Interestingly, while being breathtakingly gorgeous, the track feels like a witty and playful conversation between three masters of their craft.

New VIdeo: Ballaké Sissoko Teams Up with Nouveau Vague’s Camille on a Gorgeous New Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a deeply musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou is slated for an April 9, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. The album took a painstaking yet fruitful two years to complete.

So far I’ve written about two of Djourou’s released singles:

“Frotter Les Mains,” deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” the mediative track is centered around the simple percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands back and forth, shimmering plucked kora and Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino’s dexterous and heady bars in French. While being a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and empathetic connection in a world that’s often batshit insane, the two artists make a virtual connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — with an important reminder that hip hop is the lingua franca of post-modern life.
Album title track “Djourou,” which sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh. Centered around the duo holding a musical conversation by trading expressive and shimmering, melodic kora lines paired with ethereal interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborations making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across time. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“When I met Ballaké, we said to ourselves that to talk to each other we had to play together, and that’s how we spoke best: we played under a tree, outside, and part of the melody came to me like that,” Camille recalls. “I wanted to write a song about the kora, the mystery of this instrument, and I started asking him questions: about woodwind, etc. but it’s not a luthier’s song, it’s a love song. Love is fire, love is water. And the sound of the kora is like flowing water.”

“Kora,” was realized with a simple yet strikingly shot bit of live footage shot in Paris’ Bois de Vincennes Park by Julien Borel and Vladimir Cagnolari , which captures the duo’s incredible musical simpatico.

New Video: Ballaké Sissoko Teams up With Rising Gambian Kora Player Sona Jobarteh on a Meditative Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a rather musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically,. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou was originally scheduled for release this week — but its release has since been rescheduled for an April 19, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The forthcoming album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Interestingly, Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. And as a result, the album has taken over two years to complete.

Late last year, I wrote about Djourou’s first single, the meditative and gorgeous “Frotter Les Mains,” which features acclaimed Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino. Deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” “Frotter Les Mains” is centered around the percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands, shimmering kora and Puccino’s dexterous and heady French lyrics. The end result is a song that’s simultaneously a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and kindness in a world that’s often batshit insane, a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — and a reminder that hip hop has become the lingua franca that binds us all.

Djourou’s latest single, album title track “Djourou” is a mediative track that sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh, centered around the duo trading shimming and expressive melodic bursts of kora paired with ethereal, interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborators making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across generations. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“You grow up listening to somebody, and that’s the person that has in many ways been your teacher, your inspiration since a very young age,” Jobarteh says of her collaboration with the Malian-bor, Parisian-based kora master. “The first time I heard him, sounded so different to me, the tone that he gets out of the instrument is so different. He says something to me, the phrasing and the melody he picks – and he’s technically amazing, but he doesn’t let that become more than the music. That’s something I’ve always respected about him.”

Directed by Benoît Peverelli, the recently released video for “Djourou” features intimately shot footage of Sissoko and Jobarteh in the studio. The visual manages to convey the meditative peace of the song.