October 28, 2021

TOUMANI DIABATÉ & THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – ‘KÔRÔLÉN’ – “intimate swooning interplay”

WORLD CIRCUIT      23rd April

It’s a lovely and hypnotic instrument, the Kora. Capable of anything from lively jives to lyrical expansion, this fusion of the sounds and styles of a lute, a guitar, and a harp is versatile. The West African instrument is usually heard in this country as part of a traditional combo but takes centre stage here in front of an orchestra. This means that you hear it as a lead instrument with the orchestra more sonically distinct than the traditional accompaniment would be. On the whole, the orchestra complements and fills but it frequently counterpoints in a lovely way. Once the orchestra met for rehearsals, the arrangements began to shift and the conductor responded to bring out an rewarding partnership that overcame my initial suspicion.

This works as a relaxing yet involving partnership, with melody and improvisation from Diabate, backed by his Malian colleagues, with warm swells and fills from the orchestra. The intimate nature of plucked instruments, along with the shimmer that comes from the harp-like stringing, casts a spell and the attention is grabbed. Sometimes it is as rich as Canteloube’s ‘Chants D’Auvergne’. The orchestration, in providing a shifting magic carpet, provides something for Toumani to respond to in his improvisation and this is some of the magic created. It is a live recording from 2008 and you may recognise some of the tunes from other albums, in different forms. For a gentle smile, check out the start of Cantelowes Dream, where Diabate quotes from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The live experience always brings out something illuminating though you’d hardly know it was live, with no announcements or audience noise. 

This can be considered a success in its
sense of being sat just a few yards from the orchestra, detailed sonics, and dreamy interplay between aural worlds.