The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
30th of September, 2015

The Diabatés: Rachid Ouiguini

While aloft, in the past year (and much too late for someone like myself, I think), I discovered the latest album by Toumani Diabaté and his son Sidiki Diabaté. It is named after the father-son duo, fittingly.

On the whole, I think it is just an extension of Toumani’s repertoire, and I cannot help thinking that Sidiki has not (yet) expressed himself properly. Remember what happened when Viex Farka Touré properly left the shadow of his late father; you do not really get the same sound, and those like myself who were Ali’s fans probably found Vieux a bit poor. But then he did that first album with Idan Raichel, and the same insane magic happened that Ali shared with Ry Cooder. As Talking Timbuktu was a massive coup and a classical achievement for Ali in World (rather than, say, simply Sahelian or Malian) music, so also The Tel-Aviv Session was a grand coup and a classical achievement for Vieux and Idan in World. Like father like son.

On the other hand, Toumani had his classical achievement while playing a reprise of his father’s Cordes Anciennes with his cousin, on New Ancient Strings. So, in fact, it may be that in the line of the Diabatés, God does not send down a blessing unless proper filial piety has been shown. I mean, He does not sustain seventy generations of the best string-play since David without making that, in itself, a clear statement about His expectations of Mandé djeliya.

This album, Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté is a proper collaboration, and for that reason Toumani dominates. On top of being the teacher here, he is also by nature very dominating on a record. Most of it is just blasting displays of sheer virtuosity; but by now Toumani has shown us that weirdness will happen, and we expect it. Beyond sheer displays of excellence, there was little of note in the album. Save for one song.

Rachid Ouiguini is the only song there that really-really holds my attention, but man does it hold it! It is so achingly beautiful, the way it goes this way and that, up and down, fas’ and slo’ I remember noting that it justified an entire album all by itself.
There is nearly nothing “Toumani” in it! —There is much Diabaté, but very little Toumani; the remainder is Sidiki. When I saw it played on a BBC clip, it was indeed Sidiki driving the song. On the sleeve, Toumani’s kora is of the ancient design, while the one of Sidiki is a more-modern design. That’s another very good sign of good rebellion. In it, I hear the stirrings of a new independent Diabaté, and it may take another album—and another collaboration with family—before Sidiki gets the classic. Maybe the Diabatés should do Modern Ancient Strings or the like.