The fine folks behind Calabash Music – one of the best places on the ‘net to legally download world music – have started a “free song a day” weblog, offering a great opportunity to become more knowledgeable about music from all over the planet. Brad Powell, creative director for Calabash is posting a new song every day or two, along with commentary and context. On the day a song is posted, it’s downloadable for free from Calabash. (Yes, you’ve got to set up an account – it’s free, but requires you to have a credit card to set up.)
The last few posts have featured Robert Plant, singing at the “Festival in the Desert” in rural Mali, Zimbabwean songwriter Chiwoniso, Rwandan singer and reconcilliation activist Jean Paul Samputu, and the astoundingly cool Ba Cissoko. Cissoko, born in Guinea-Bissau, moved across the border to Guinea-Conakry in 1989 to study with kora master M’bady Kouyat. He bonded with M’bady’s sons, Kourou and Skou, and the three began performing as a trio, performing on kora, electric kora and bass, later adding Ibrahim Bah on djembe and other percussion.
While Cissoko is clearly a brilliant and inventive kora player, it’s Skou Kouyat who blows me away. His kora is run through a set of effects which add a thick layer of distortion to his solo lines. The resulting sound has caused the French music press (the group is currently based in Marseilles) to refer to him as “le Hendrix de la Kora”. Personally, he makes me think of some of my favorite albums of all time, the two records kora master Foday Musa Suso made after hanging out with Herbie Hancock, under the band name “Mandingo”, which sounded like traditional kora music and Bill Laswell colliding at high speeds.
So thanks, Calabash, for giving me (free!) the number one track on my current playlist. And for those of you who enjoy some world music with your globally-focused media criticism (or whatever it is that I do here), make haste to Brad Powell’s blog.