Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze
Amanké Dionti (Motema Music, 2012)
As soon as you read the last name Cissoko (sometimes spelled or Sissoko), you know that you are encountering a member of West African jali (griot) family. In this case, Ablaye Cissoko is a Senegalese kora player. In the past decades, the fascination with the kora has led to numerous collaborations and combinations of kora with other musical instruments and genres. On Amanké Dionti, Ablaye Cissoko teams up with U.S.-based German trumpeter Volker Goetze.
The immediately accessible fusion brings together Cissoko ‘s Senegalese vocals, west African kora tradition and Goetze’s jazz sensibility. Amanké Dionti is incredibly melodic and beautiful. It’s not fast paced improvisatory music, but rather well structured laid back meditative pieces. Goetze’s trumpet is soft and evocative. He uses a trumpet mute to modify the timbre and reduce the volume of his instrument. Together with Cissoko’s storyteller vocals and kora lines, the music is captivating and dreamy.
The material on Amanke Dionti developed during the extensive touring schedule Goetze and Cissoko kept up since the release of their first album, Sira. “You can say that Sira came about intuitively, while by the time we recorded Amanke Dionti, we were much more aware of the elements that make our pairing work,” explains Goetze. “When we play, we are simply playing in a state of mind much like meditating. Any great performer knows how to get into his ‘zone,’ and it amazes me that we can stay in that zone for over an hour every time we perform live. Of course, the energy of the audience helps. But when we are recording, it’s important to spend as much time as necessary in that place as well, not for the sake of perfection, but to allow that same moment of peace to enter. If one meditates, you know that we cannot stay ‘in the moment’ for very long. It’s hard work. The mind wanders. One continually needs to bring it back to the present, to the breath.”
Amanke Dionti was recorded in the distinctive environment of Bon Secours, an historic all wooden church in Paris that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. “Playing acoustic enabled us to interact with a greater dynamic,” says Goetze. “Rooms with a natural reverb are perfect for the kora, voice and trumpet. An all wooden church provides that perfect environment, while the spiritual, mystical nature of the space itself served the spirit of our music.”
Amanke Dionti can be translated to “She is Not Your Slave.” It’s a controversial move by Cissoko as it addresses one of the least known but still very troubling societal issues facing the Senegalese people. Cissoko’s lyrics urge respect for the thousands of young women who are sent by their impoverished families in the remote areas to serve as maids for more affluent urban families. These young women hope to work in exchange for food, shelter, education and more money, but instead many are exploited and treated as nothing more than slaves. By openly speaking out about these conditions, Cissoko is taking this issue to an international audience.
The album also includes an excerpt from Griot, the documentary film by Goetze that focuses on Cissoko.
Amanké Dionti is a beautifully crafted combination of gentle West African melodies and contemplative jazz.
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