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.
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.
Composer: Traditional Mandingue Repertoire (West Africa)
Kora: Cheick Diarra
Music Arrangement: Cheick Diarra & Ibantuta
Recording & Mixing: Ibantuta
Video Production: Ibantuta