Diabel Cissokho – Rhythm of the Griot

Album Review | Kafou Music | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

“We Can Do Blues” sings Diabel Cissokho just ten seconds into the opening song on this, the Senegalese singer and kora master’s fifth album release Rhythm of the Griot. Delivered in French, “On Sait Faire Blues” is an affirmation of what soon becomes pretty obvious, that this band can indeed do the blues. It’s a crossover of sorts, a mixture of trance-like blues and delicate kora playing in the traditional style, from a musician who now splits his time between his native home of Senegal and his adoptive home of Cornwall. The songs here may seem contemporary and vibrant, with some over-loaded reverb, but the essence of this music stretches back through centuries and some of that feel is ingrained in the rhythms he and his collaborators produce.

The sparring between the stringed instruments and the blues harp is evident on the instrumental “Koullo”, which brings a sense of a blues conversation, with each instrument vying for dominance, whilst “Manssaya” achieves the same but within the context of a conversation between voice and kora. The highly infectious call and response groove to standout track “Barakhama” brings possibly the strongest sense of tradition, reminiscent of some of Ali Fark Toure’s early work, as does the final track “Fasso”, with a guest vocal performance courtesy of Nama Cissokho.