On July 25, World Circuit/Nonesuch will release in North America the debut of Toumani Diabate‘s pan-African Symmetric Orchestra, Boulevard de l’Independance. Boulevard was released in the U.K. by World Circuit on March 27 and is garnering considerable critical praise there.
Over the last decade, Diabate and his Symmetric Orchestra have performed almost every Friday night at Bamako’s Hogon club. They have become one of the most popular bands in the city’s vast music scene, celebrated across West Africa and beyond. Like the new album’s title-taken from the main road that bisects Bamako-the group’s name refers to a balance between tradition and progress: music preserved from the Mande Empire that once connected West Africa and contemporary dance-music styles.
The Symmetric Orchestra comprises players from Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Mali, and its instrumentation includes electric guitar, bass, and drums, as well as the more traditional kora, ngoni, and balafon. Boulevard de l’Independance captures the Symmetric Orchestra’s singular sound, which in nine tracks spans everything from age-old Mande standards to Cuban-Senegalese salsa.
The album was recorded in two weeks of all-night sessions and features a string section, a horn section arranged by Pee Wee Ellis, and singers including the local hero Kasse Mady Diabate. Fifty-fourth in a hereditary line of master musicians and jelis (griots), Toumani Diabate is simultaneously revered as the guardian of an ancient musical tradition and as a bold, boundary-crossing experimentalist. He has earned acclaim for inventive solo records as well as collaborations with Blur’s Damon Albam, American bluesman Taj Mahal, and the nuevo flamenco group Ketama, among others. Also on July 25, World Circuit/Nonesuch will release Savane, the final album by Ali Farka Toure.
Toumani Diabate received a GRAMMY for In the Heart of the Moon, his intimate collaboration with the late, great African guitarist Ali Farka Toure. That recording was part of a three-part series called The Hotel Mande Sessions, which was recorded at Bamako, Mali’s Hotel Mande by Nick Gold and his World Circuit team, including longtime engineering collaborator Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club).