In another case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it,’ the multi-cultural pair ply their interweaving trade on a roof in Bamako. You may hear extraneous sounds.

Label: Six Degrees
Time:  9 tracks / 42 mins

This pair – highly regarded Malian kora player Sissoko and classically trained French cellist Ségal – love working with other people and seem especially keen to work with each other. That is no surprise when they turn out something as delicate and entrancing as 2009’s Chamber Music, which sold over 50,000 copies.

The starting track here, “Nia Ndou” could have come from that classic. Listen carefully at the beginning and you might hear the sound of traffic, or the occasional insect. The first four tracks of this release were recorded on Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, Mali.  The track is played like a jazz piece – the Malian’s kora soloing before Ségal brings in his cello and the two play off a simple theme, improvising around it and, at one point, both playing a frenetic run simultaneously.

It is sometimes hard to tell who exactly is playing what. On the same track, either Sissoko’s fingerwork on the African harp-lute is phenomenal or Ségal is plucking the cello at the same time. On “Balazando,” the latter even gets his cello to make a flute-like sound.

Western ears might particularly enjoy Ségal’s two pieces.  The lovely “Passa Quatro” brings to mind his collaboration with Piers Faccini, while the short “Prelude” (which at track seven is a strange sort of prelude) also has his stamp on it. Both have more of a guitar sound plucked from somewhere.

Babani Kone adds vocals to “Diaboro” (whether you think this adds a focus to the centre of the disc or feel that it breaks the instrumental beauty is probably a subjective thing) while the musicians use all combinations of their instruments in this unhurried collaboration. ”Samba Tomora” is a lively piece, while “Super Etoile” is appropriately bright and twinkly.

This is another release that should serve the pair well.


Derek Walker