SOAS University of London

SOAS ethnomusicologist plays central role in pioneering new album fusing traditional Malian music with Western classical string quartet

3 October 2017

SOAS University of London ethnomusicologist Dr Lucy Durán, who has been working with leading Malian musicians for many years, has played a central role in the creation, research, selection of repertoire, and music production of the recently released Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet album 'Ladilikan'.

The album is a unique collaboration between the Malian super group Trio Da Kali and the renowned Kronos Quartet from San Francisco. It brings together the finest traditional griot musicians from Mali with a renowned and revolutionary Western string quartet. The tracks are mainly based on arrangements of pieces from the Malian oral tradition, and there are also two outstanding versions of gospel songs originally performed by the late great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, including the title track, Ladilikan.

A review by journalist and writer Banning Eyre of Afropop Worldwide (NPR) said: "Lucy Durán, a pioneering scholar of Mande music and a legendary producer of landmark albums, especially from Mali, has nurtured the trio [Da Kali] since its inception… Durán’s informative notes provide deep context for the songs, completing what must now stand as the most successful encounter between Western classical and traditional African music yet."

The group Trio Da Kali consists of virtuoso Lassana Diabaté on balafon; Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté as vocalist – who is the daughter of Mali's celebrated singer Kassé Mady Diabaté  - and she has been compared to the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson - and Mamadou Kouyaté on bass ngoni , the eldest son of ngoni virtuoso Bassekou Kouyaté, together with the Kronos Quartet.

For more than 40 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello) – have pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience and broaden its repertoire to include music from around the world.

The album is released by the prestigious UK independent label, World Circuit Records - the label of Ali Farka Touré, Toumani Diabaté, Orchestra Baobab and Buena Vista Social Club among others. It was recorded in Switzerland in 2015 and has received 4 and 5 star reviews in the Guardian, Times, Financial Times and Economist, The Evening Standard,  and Songlines, amongst others.

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Introducing Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet