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Balance Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal – a beautiful cross-border conversation | Music

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JThey begin as they plan to continue, with an exquisite and hypnotic late-night meditation. A gently undulating solo on the kora, the West African harp, gives way to a collaboration with the cello. Then the cello takes over, with the strings first plucked and then rubbed, while the kora now fades to accompany the melody. This is the title track from Chamber Music, Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal’s debut album, released in 2009 at the start of what turned out to be one of the great Afro-European partnerships.

Sitting next to each other on stage, they may seem like an unlikely couple, but they have a similar story. Sissoko, who wears a blue robe, is a griot and master of the 21-string kora. Like his famous and equally adventurous cousin Toumani Diabaté, he learned the old Mandinka styles, West African classical music, but he is eager to experiment. His latest solo album Djourou included a collaboration with a French rapper and a playful revamp by Berlioz. Ségal, who wears a dark suit, is a classically trained cellist who rose to stardom in France by improvising with a punk-influenced drummer in Bumcello.

Together they play almost as if by intuition, as the kora and cello alternate between lead and rhythmic backing, constantly changing direction within the same piece. The music is understated but quietly thrilling, with improvisation that involves virtuoso kora solos or passages where the cello is strummed like a guitar. Music from both of their albums is mixed with tracks from Sissoko’s solo albums, with Ségal switching to castanets as Sissoko embarks on his revamp of Asa Branca by Brazilian accordionist Luiz Gonzaga.

For the encore, they’re joined by remarkable Britain-based South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, who won a deserved standing ovation for his opening solo set, which involved anything from delicate vocals to dignified growling. from mbaqanga star Mahlathini to a prelude from Bach’s cello suite. , the audience providing drone effects. Joining Sissoko and Ségal for Mako Mady, he adds subtle vocals and cello textures – they should be recording together as a trio.

Balance Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal – a beautiful cross-border conversation | Music

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