N’Faly Kouyate, Ba Cissoko and Prince Diabate Kora Trio – Purcell Room, 12 September 2009

The Kora is an amazing instrument: it’s lovely to look at; it’s intricate to play (with 21 strings) and it produces a whole range of sounds. It’s iconic.

It did pain me to leave the sunshine for this 3pm gig… but I soon got over that. The Kora trio played to a small audience, in the Purcell Room (Southbank Centre).

We are told that N’Faly Kouyate, Ba Cissoko and Prince Diabate are childhood friends. They each play the Kora in their own way, creating their own distinctive sound. You could close your eyes and you would know which player was playing. (In the same way that you can instantly identify Toumani Diabate when he plays).

The music was poetic. The songs were beautiful.

Looking at them playing, you would think that the Kora is an easy instrument to play. They are astounding musicians and very talented.

Ba Cissoko, looking very solemn, produced a very professional performance. Prince Diabate was more flamboyant and modern. N’Faly Kouyate more traditional.  Their differences were apparent during the whole performance, but particularly evident from the solo piece they each performed. Their outfits also perfectly reflected their personalities.

With the last song, Ba Cissoko decided to have us standing, singing and clapping… ‘to create an atmosphere’.

We were told this was the trio’s first performance in fifteen years, ‘but hopefully not the last’, said N’Faly Kouyate (who then asked cheekily whether we thought it should be the last, giving us another one of his hugely infectious smiles). No… we want more.

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