Toumani Diabaté

November 10th, 2008


Toumani Diabaté Sunday, November 9, Triple Door

And so we went to the Triple Door tonight for the final concert of the 2008 Earshot Jazz Festival and oh what a concert it was. Toumani Diabaté put on an ethereal performance sending the packed SRO house way out to another star system. Earhot Jazz Director John Gilbreath said later that he had never seen the Triple Door when it was so packed and yet so quiet. Everyone fell under the spell of Toumani and his magical kora. Near the end of the performance he stopped and thanked everyone and begged John to bring him back to Seattle yet again. Then he explained how to play a kora: its easy he said and not as hard as a piano. You just use four fingers – one thumb for bass, one for melody and two index fingers to improvise. “If you can play one song you are a master” he explained.


The kora, a 21-string harp from West Africa, may strike American ears as an uncanny ancestor of a wide range of popular music from this continent. Toumani Diabaté, a virtuoso from Bamako, Mali, has done as much as any player of the instrument to bring its delights to audiences around the world.

Diabaté is from a long line of Malian griots – traditional bearers and interpreters of the country’s ancient court music and history. In fact, he can trace his family’s involvement in music back 71 generations.


Diabaté’s the Best Of Toumani Diabaté stands out from his many other albums as the first internationally-released compilation of music by an individual kora player. In recent years he has collaborated with the likes of Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, Ballake Sissoko, Salif Keita, and Ali Farka Toure. With Farka Toure, he recorded a set of duets, In the Heart of the Moon, which won the Grammy for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2005.

Diabaté aims to open up the kora tradition to a wide variety of influences. He counts, among his inspirations, many kinds of music, including icons of American music such as Elvis, James Brown, and Louis Armstrong to name but a few.

Photographs by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan, a photojournalist specializing in portrait photography,  jazz photography, and photojournalism  for publications and corporations and a Seattle wedding photographer with an unobtrusive, story-telling approach creating award winning Seattle wedding photography.

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