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Mande Variations

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 26, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

The Mand‚ Variations is Malian legend Toumani Diabat‚'s first solo recording in 20 years and it is a stunningly beautiful, immediately accessible blend of traditional melodies, original compositions and breathtaking improvisations from the world-renowned virtuoso of the kora, the 21-stringed West African harp. According to London's The Guardian, 'Diabat‚ mixes fearsome technique with a deep humanism and a magical ability to improvise scintillating runs out of thin air.' American concertgoers who saw Diabat‚ with members of his celebrated dance band, the Symmetric Orchestra, on his spring-summer '07 tour in support of his previous World Circuit Nonesuch disc, Boulevard de L'Independanc‚, witnessed a performance that was nothing short of astonishing.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 26, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0012K1IQC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,532 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The West African kora is one of the most seductive instruments on the planet - a sublime concoction of calabash gourd, cowskin and fishing line. And Toumani Diabaté, from a hereditary family of musicians in Mali, is its greatest exponent.
With filigree, rippling melodies, the music is soft, elegant and profound.
As the title suggests, this is a sort of classical kora album revisiting some classic tracks, but also laying down improvisations which sound experimental even if you've never heard a note of kora music before, such as his homage to his friend and fellow musician Ali Farka Touré.
Never has the Malian kora harp sounded so beautiful as in this new record by its greatest living master.
Toumani is said to descend from 70 generations of kora players, stretching back to the golden age of the medieval Mande empire.
He's always experimented alongside the traditional Malian modes, and his collaborators have included Björk and Damon Albarn and winning a Grammy in tandem with Ali Farka Touré for "In the Heart of the Moon" was just his latest exploit.
And now comes this CD.
Blissfully devoid of any amplification, electronic tampering, or accompaniment, it weaves a spell which is powerfully reinforced by the sheer quality of its recording.
The instrument sings with extraordinary resonance, in an acoustic so sensitive that we hear every creak of its wood and sinew; the music itself is rapt and reflective, and the tracks are luxuriously long.
What's most interesting is the way his stylistic inflections are starting to resemble those of North Indian raga music.
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Toumani Diabaté, the kora guru of Africa, has outdone himself with this collection of solo instrumental pieces. The virtuosity in fingering the kora, the richness of the rhythms and range of melodies is unmatched by anything this Malian musician has done previously. I enjoyed his earlier solo collection, "Kaira", produced twenty years ago and his "New Ancient Strings" (1999), with which he and the younger Ballake Sissoko paid homage to their fathers' musical genius. Yet now, with this CD he has reached a level of maturity, depth and musicality not previously achieved. For fans of the West African kora, this is a must in their collection; for the "newbies", this is a great introduction into a mesmerizing aspect of Malian music and treat to enjoy over and over again. It will very likely become addictive. This is music to lose yourself in.

Toumani Diabaté comes from a long line of Malian musicians. His father was the most famous kora player of his time and Toumani often pays credit to him through his music. Nonetheless, the younger Diabaté has refined the abilities of the instrument and enriched the playing techniques over the years. Elements of these could already be detected in the award winning "In The Heart of the Moon", a collaboration with the legendary guitarist, the late Ali Farka Touré. Toumani, being largely self-taught, has been open to experimenting with this traditional instrument, without abandoning its unique sound and complex harmonies. As he traveled the world, he absorbed and learned from other musical cultures, such as Indian classical music, flamenco and blues. The compositions on this CD harmoniously integrate such influences with melodies and rhythms of the past. All are his, or presented in his adaptation.
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Format: Audio CD
I brought this home and listened to it four times running; then ordered 4 more CDs by Toumani Diabate.

It's hard to believe that this is only one person playing. The rhythms are complex, but every note glows.

The only other performer I have ever heard with this level of musicianship is Andres Segovia.
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I saw Toumani Diabate with Bela Fleck live last night at Yoshi's in Oakland, California. I had never heard of Toumani or the kora, so I was really only excited to see Bela Fleck. I was completely and totally blown away by Diabate's performance, both solo and with Bela. Just totally blown away. He described the kora as a harp lute - it has 21 strings between a large body and a 4' long neck, and is played with only 4 fingers (two on each hand). Its a majestic looking instrument, and yet it still took me by surprise with how beautiful and complex his playing was.

He played two of the songs from this album live / solo, and they were shockingly good. The reproduction on the album is basically just as good - well mic'd and clear. The songs are complicated and energetic, yet very relaxing to listen to. I can't recommend it highly enough. I'm off to purchase his Grammy winning "In The Heart of the Moon" now.
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Format: Audio CD
All instrumental, solo music by an incredibly talented and unique Kora player. The Kora is a West African stringed instrument which has also been called the lute-harp (by those who need a point of reference). You really have to hear it to believe and appreciate it. I'm an accomplished acoustic and electric guitar player, heavily influenced by a wide variety of classical misic. For long lasting, non-intrusive listenability, I highly recommend this, especially for musicians of stringed instruments, including of course the piano. The melodic and rhytmic counterpoint is phenomenal and unique. I get drawn into it similar to the way that Mozart's Nachtmusik or Vivaldi's Four Seasons do, it's meditative. His earlier album is very similar, Kaira. Fame did not spoil this talent. I bought them both at the same time. Make no mistake: this is very fine art.
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