Monday, March 18, 2002
WORLD MUSIC REVIEW
Prince Diabate a Masterful Kora Player
By DON HECKMAN, Special to The Times
Guinean musician Prince Diabate
has been described as the prince (as in royalty, not the rock
star) of the kora, as well as the Jimi Hendrix of the instrument.
In his performance at the Getty Center's Harold M. Williams
Auditorium on Saturday, the former description was more applicable
than the latter.
The colorfully garbed instrumentalist
and singer, a descendant of a long line of Malinke djelis, is
clearly a masterful kora player with the capacity to extract
an astonishing array of sounds and melodies from his utterly
unique instrument. The kora combines elements of the harp and
the lute, and in Diabate's hands it was especially effective
when he was using its multi-stringed sounds to accompany his
singing of spirited traditional songs.
The Hendrix label was less apparent.
True, Diabate had his kora hooked up through some electronic
amplification and sound control devices that allowed him to
create some wah-wah effects. It was fascinating to hear the
full range of the soft, acoustic sounds of the kora via the
amplification, but the electronic manipulation added little
more than superficial references to rock guitar sounds--utterly
unnecessary for Diabate's playing, which was powerful and engaging
on its own terms.
There was, in addition, an extraordinary
sense of celebration about the performance, with the six musicians
backing Diabate--especially Famoro Diabate on the xylophone-like
balafon and Aziz Faye on percussion--providing a galvanizing
musical surge, and Rujeko Masango adding some wildly energetic
dancing. By the time the concert reached its spirited climax,
the stage was filled with audience members working out their
own dance steps, and Diabate and his players were surrounded
by fluttering dollar bills offered, in traditional African style,
by appreciative listeners.
Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times