Kulanjan- Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate

The first metallic, tinkling notes of “Queen Bee” strike the ear as something both completely familiar and completely foreign. And of course that is exactly what the album is. Taj Mahal is the artist who has done the most work to keep the acoustic blues tradition alive. His music can sometimes archetypal, beautiful and great in the flawless execution of that which has been done before. Toumani Diabate is the most famous kora player in the world, son, grandson, great-grandson for many generations, heir to a long tradition of griot musicians.
It is easy to hear why these two musicians decided to work together. In the beginning of “Tunkaranke (The Adventurer),” the guitar and the kora intermingle in a long, slow, loping rhythm, losing each other in the webs of intermingled chords. At times, it is hard to distinguish which instrument is which. The music sways, smoothly, and for a minute, it is like you can feel the revolution and the passing of time and the journey and the spirit that separates and joins the strings together…
Other tracks, like “Mississippi-Mail Blues” start by grounding themselves in familiar folk rhythms and chords, before going on a bewildering cascade of sharp rhythms and pleasant riffs. Really, beyond the symbolism of the Delta Blues combined with the Malian Griot music, this album is special because of the musicianship behind it. The album would not work, as a symbol or otherwise, were it not for the unbelivable chops of Toumani Diabate or the rich texture of Taj Mahal’s guitar and voice. As much as the album is a celebration of great cultures, it is a celebration of great artists. It then is no surprise that the result is great music.

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