Saturday, January 23, 2021

Seckou Keita

It seems quite some time since I’ve hosted “music night” here at The Wild Reed. To remedy this, I share tonight, as I shared last July, my love of the kora, a musical instrument often referred to as the West African harp.

Last year it was kora player Mbemba Diebaté whom I spotlighted; tonight it’s Seckou Keita. And I do so by sharing “If Only I Knew,” one of my favorite tracks from Seckou’s 2015 album, 22 Strings.

Beautiful, isn’t it? . . . I sure think so.

Following, with added links, is The Guardian’s Robin Denselow’s review of 22 Strings.

Born in Casamance in the south of Senegal but now living in Nottingham, Seckou Keita can be classed alongside the great Toumani Diabaté as one of the adventurous masters of the kora, the African harp. And like Diabaté, he specialises in surprise. His [2014] album, Clychau Dibon, was a gently exquisite set of acoustic duets with the Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, and it rightly picked up a batch of awards. It was preceded by albums in which he explored everything from flamenco to jazz-funk; his latest is an elegant solo set dominated by instrumental compositions. There are African influences, of course, along with tracks that echo western themes, with quietly hypnotic, repeated phrases matched against sturdy melodies. He adds relaxed and soulful vocals to three tracks, and the charming set ends with an upbeat, but still delicate funk finale.

About the title of 22 Strings, Seckou’s official website notes the following.

In 22 Strings, Seckou explores what it means to be a modern global citizen, and yet to live with seven centuries of tradition and heritage expressed through music. He gives us the kora in its purest guise, a wondrous instrument that can soothe the bloodlust of warriors and take the human spirit to a place of deep meditation, stillness and beauty. The title of the album says it all. Centuries ago, when the djinns, the spirits of the African bush, gave the first ever kora to the griot Jali Mady “Wulen” (“The Red”), it had 22 strings. Then, when Jali Mady died, his fellow griots took one string away in his memory. But back in its birthplace in southern Senegal and Guinea Bissau, the 22-stringed kora survives, with the extra string giving the instrument special advantages in terms of tonal reach and groove. For Seckou Keita, that one extra string represents home: the place where his heart resides.

Musicians previously spotlighted at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté | Judie Tzuke | Black

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