Mali’s Trio Da Kali live in Stoke Newington Old Church
Following a hectic array of interviews and live broadcasts including one from the Brownswood basement for https://worldwidefm.net/ Mali’s Trio Da Kali arrived in the Old Church on Stoke Newington Church Street as guests of the Nest Collective who dedicate their events to Folk & World music. The tiny church was packed with a cross generational audience, both sitting and standing. In the house was World Circuit don Nick Gold along with esteemed music journos like Neil Spencer, Robin Denselow and Val Wilmer. The recently released Trio Da Kali collaboration with the Kronos Quartet – ‘Ladilikan’ – has been a constant on this scribe’s turntable in recent times and it was down to the album’s co-producer, Lucy Duran, to introduce each member to the stage. Apparently, Da Kali means “to give a pledge” and in the case of this classical Trio that pledge is to a musical heritage which dates back to the court of the Mali Empire and Sunjata Keita in the 12th century.
In their native Mali, both the threat of Islamic fundamentalism on the one hand and the forward march of modern music on the other has virtually eradicated this classic trio format along with its repertoire. In 2017 Trio Da Kali is basically an endangered species. Trio Da Kali’s musical director and balafon player Fodé Lassana Diabaté is a long-time member of Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra. He has recorded with Salif Keita and Taj Mahal amongst others and on this night he proved himself a master musician who is capable of both dazzling and incredibly nuanced solos. He dropped the odd jazz lick – just to tease – and I wished my long time friend and vibes-man, Orphy Robinson, had been in the house to check him out. Bass ngoni player Mamadou Kouyaté is the eldest son of the instrument’s greatest exponent Bassekou Kouyaté, and he holds down the riddim in his father’s band Ngoni ba. If there was any diversion from the tradition it was this natty “bass-man”. While, on the one hand, his playing transported me across the Sahara to connect with the rhythms of the Gnawa, Mamadou also had a range of plucked and slapped licks that could have been inspired by Bootsy Collins. It came as no surprise to discover that he’s involved in the Bamako hip-hop scene. Centre stage was singer Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate. She is the daughter of Mali’s greatest traditional singer, Kassé Mady Diabate, and the power, range and phrasing of her voice led Kronos’ David Harrington to compare her to the late queen of American gospel Mahalia Jackson. Armed with a small shekere to add or maintain a specific rhythmic pulse,to each song Hawa’s emotional and soulful voice washed over us and ancient griot songs like ‘Lila Bambo’ along with a re-working of ‘God Shall Wipe All Tears Away’, complete with Bambara lyrics, resulted is an elegant and most memorable evening of totally uplifting music.