Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko today reveals details for his forthcoming 11th album – ‘Djourou’, due out February 19, 2021 via Parisian label Nø Førmat! (Oumou Sangaré, Blick Bassy, Mélissa Laveaux). Having previously partnered on projects with Toumani Diabaté, Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi, the new album draws together solo compositions alongside thoughtful collaborations with Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, leading female kora player Sona Jobarteh and French cellist Vincent Segal (with whom Sissoko has released two albums for Nø Førmat!) amongst others. Ballaké is trailing the announcement of ‘Djourou’ with new single ‘Frotter Les Mains’, featuring French rapper Oxmo Puccino – watch the video here, and stream the track on all platforms from here: https://idol.lnk.to/frotterlesmains.
NEW SINGLE: ‘FROTTER LES MAINS FEAT. OXMO PUCCINO’
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The seeds for the Paris-based master kora player’s latest project were sown when Ballaké approached Nø Førmat! to propose an album blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. For the latter element, Sissoko’s brief was simple – to seek out diverse artists with very little in common with the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated. As label head Laurent Bizot puts it, “Challenge accepted!” With a mutual emphasis placed on taking the time to confirm enriching partnerships with artists who are crucially also fans of Ballaké’s work, ‘Djourou’ has been a slow-burn project, in the making since 2018. The album’s careful intention also chimes with its title, ‘djourou’ a Bambara word meaning string. A nod not just to the 21 strings found on a kora, but the ties that also connect Sissoko to the artists who collaborate with him across the new album.
Oxmo Puccino was among the first to sign up, and the fruits of their link-up, ‘Frotter Les Mains’, indicate that the slow gestation period has been more than worth the wait. The recording of the meditative track – whose title, ‘rub hands’, mirrors the percussive elements that Ballaké created in the studio – was also a red letter day for Puccino. He recollects; “As an uncle. That’s how I first perceived Ballaké when I was introduced to him by the Master (Vincent Segal). Life never leaves me alone: it either makes fun of me or it makes me feel so small. This time the staging was perfect. Vincent Segal helped me to take my Art to the next level. This day he presented me to Ballaké, who my parents used to listen to when he was playing in Mali’s National Orchestra. I used to dream when Vincent was speaking to me about Bamako and their recording session. I have been waiting for this opportunity and to meet together. When I was invited to take part in the album, I only thought for 2 minutes before finding an obvious theme; the voice of our body, or rather its subtitle: our hands. I’m coming from a lineage of Blacksmiths and Ballaké is descended from a long line of Kora players.”
Ballaké Sissoko was first drawn to the kora at a young age, learning from his father Djelimady Sissoko, a master performer who played with the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali, of which he was also deputy director. When Djelimady passed away whilst his children were still young, Ballaké stepped up to take on his role not only as breadwinner for the family but in his country’s national orchestra. A natural fascination with other genres beyond Mandinka’s scope such as flamenco guitar and and the Indian sitar kick-started a series of critically praised collaborations including those with Vincent Segal, an ongoing musical conversation which is still paying dividends here on ‘Djourou’.