Friday, February 24, 2023

Kimi Djabaté

Something very special this evening for “music night” at The Wild Reed.

It’s the music video for “Yensoro,” the lead single from Bissau-Guinean musician Kimi Djabaté’s latest album, Dindin, released worldwide today! . . . I’m hoping to pick-up my copy of it tomorrow at Electric Fetus.

I was first introduced to Djabaté’s beautiful and mesmerizing Afro-beat/blues music via his 2009 album Karam – which is playing as I write this.

Djabaté is a guitarist, percussionist and balafón (African xylophone) player from Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa. Although now based in Lisbon, Portugal, Djabaté was raised in Tabato, a village in Guinea-Bissau known for its griots, hereditory singer-poets whose songs of praise and tales of history and legends play an essential role in West Africa’s music and social life.

A griot by birth, Djabaté’s music has been described as “enchanting and melodic, with touches of Afro-Latin swing accenting the gentle sounds of the balafón.” Along with the kora (African harp), the balafón is one of my favorite musical instruments.

So without further ado, here is Kimi Djabaté with “Yensoro.” It’s followed by the fascinating liner notes from Djabaté’s previous (and third) album, 2016’s Kanamalu.

[Kimi Djabaté’s music] strengthens his place among the griots who keep alive and present the centuries-old Mandingo traditions of West Africa. . . . [Djabaté] is also a songwriter who imbues the roots of the music of his ancestors with subtle inflences from other music genres such as blues, gospel, soul and even Portuguese fado.

There’s a clear historic link between the art of the griots and the development of the blues, and therefore also rock and contemporary musical genres worldwide. In his documentary series The Blues, Martin Scorsese said: “(In the arts) the greatest truth is that everything – every painting, every movie, every play, every song – comes out of something that precedes it. It’s a chain of human responses. The beauty of art and the power of art is that it can never be standardized or mechanized. It has to be a human exchange, passed down hand to hand, or else it’s not art.”

Kimi Djabaté is a more-than-perfect example of these words: his music faithfully follows the principles of the culture to which he belongs; yet at the same time it belongs to him alone, and him and his studio and road colleagues. His words tell similar stories to thousands of other ancient griot stories – the call for justice and peace, honor of ancestors and close relatives, respect for women – but applied to his own life, his reality, his country: the demand for democracy, harmony and peace in Guinea-Bissau; the mournful eulogy of his father; a tribute to his mother and his daughter; or the appeal to griot colleagues to never give up this profession.

Kimi Djabaté was born in 1975 – the year of independence for Guinea-Bissau – in the village of Tabato where his ancestors, who were griots who originated in Mali, had settled for decades. His music features traditional instruments including the balafón, kora and water drum, alongside guitars, bass and drums. It’s music that travels constantly between joy and sadness (and many other feelings throughout). It is an art, in the words of Scorsese, which is never standardized or mechanized; and which is always a human exchange.

António Pires
Excerpted from the liner notes of
Kimi Djabaté’s 2016 album Kanamalu

Previously featured musicians 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 | Seckou Keita | Rahsaan Patterson | Black | Ash Dargan | ABBA | The KLF and Tammy Wynette | Luke James and Samoht | Julee Cruise | Olivia Newton-John | Dyllón Burnside | Christine McVie | Rita Coolidge | Bettye LaVette | Burt Bacharach

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