Kora thumbnail min

When Oud meets Kora

Bamako, Mali. The Oud meets the Kora in captivating and lively music, reflecting a city in Africa undergoing rapid change.

Watch the video

The Story

2017. Departure for Mali. My brother is getting married there, in Bamako. An intense stay in one of the most vibrant capitals of West Africa. "Les dimanches à Bamako c’est les jours de marriage” (Sundays in Bamako are wedding days) says the song, and indeed, it's not a myth. The neighbourhoods are bustling with weddings of young Malians, beautifully dressed, heavily made up... and seemingly uncomfortable. My brother, perhaps a bit reluctantly, adheres to the tradition: it has to be spectacular! My sister-in-law's family is busy with preparations: the venue, the caterer, the decorations, the guest list... we find essentially the same preparations as a wedding in Europe. With one (important) difference: the Griots. Storytellers, musicians, and keepers of a community's memory, these multidisciplinary artists fascinate me. 

  • Photo website mali
  • Photo website kora2
  • Photo website kora3

You know what, I feel like being a Griot too, for this Basque-Malian wedding. I ask my brother's mother-in-law to introduce me to the Griots from their family. "There, in our neighbourhood, at the end of the street, you'll find one who plays the Kora" she tells me. I find him in his element, immersed in his 21-string instrument. 

Bass, chords, and melody, all at once with a single instrument, such is the magic of the Kora. It hypnotizes me. It also warms the hearts of the happy and carefree children in the neighborhood. They are busy kicking a ball and may not realize how lucky they are to be immersed in this enchanting music. I connect well with the Kora player, Cheick Diarra. Behind his reserved nature, I sense a form of kindness and gentleness, surely shaped by the purity of his music. 

But time is running out for me. The wedding is in a few days, and I'm not ready. I propose that we play together for the event. He gladly accepts. We spend the whole morning listening to our respective instruments, in the shade of a shea tree. Cheick's musical repertoire is very rich. Ultimately, "Jarabi," a song that expresses messages of love and unity, is unanimously chosen. We will perform it a few days later, on this very important day for both our families. 

What pride to have made my modest contribution to this magnificent cultural exchange! Like the Griots, today I am a storyteller, I was a musician on that day and with this video I feel like a memory keeper for the young couple and their children who will watch it in the years to come. A part of the Griot remains in me. 

Thank you, Cheick, thank you Mali and my entire extended family.

and credits

Title: Jarabi
Composer: Traditional Mandingue Repertoire (West Africa)
Kora: Cheick Diarra 
Oud: Ibantuta
Music Arrangement: Cheick Diarra & Ibantuta
Recording & Mixing: Ibantuta
Video Production: Ibantuta
Year: 2017

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