Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté: St. Georges Hall, Liverpool

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St George’s Hall provides the setting for Toumani Diabaté and his son, Sidiki, to showcase their mesmerising use of the kora, Getintothis’ Luke Traynor reflects on 71 generations of musical talent.


Hobbling gingerly onto stage with a walking stick, gently guided by his attentive son Sidiki, the appearance of legendary Toumani Diabaté was immediately touching.
Recognised as the world’s most revered kora exponent, the 48-year-old has spent his life showcasing the wonders of his 21-stringed West African harp. And it was a visibly proud man Liverpool cast eyes upon, plainly content to be promoting his own flesh and blood’s dedication to the instrument that has shaped his life.
And what dedication it proved to be, with Sidiki demonstrating a staggering verve that left his father chuckling, clapping, and throwing his head back with delight.
The night’s display of the Griot musical tradition smacked of a passing of the Malian conductor’s baton to the younger generation. While Toumani ruminated among his bassy, mellow intoxicating slower grooves, his son’s fingers scampered across the strings with wonderful dexterity, toppling up and down fiendishly complex chromatic scales with the air of a developing genius.
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Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté performing live St. Georges Hall
This was virtuoso stuff from Sidiki, who at times resorted to quite brilliant improvisation and plucked the kora’s strings with a bold stridency and undeniable masculinity that begged to be listened to.
My child, I have taught you everything I know. Use these skills well,” were not Toumani’s words to his son, but his contended expression seemed to convey that exact sentiment.
Steeped in tradition dating back a mind-boggling 71 generations (Toumani‘s talent came from his own father Sidiki), St Georges Hall was the perfect setting for these broad brushstrokes of tumbling musical rainfall. For one night Mali came to Liverpool, with the concert room’s white columns, marble figurines and embroidered balconies an apt accompaniment for the warm embraces of stringed beauty that planted soft kisses amid our awakened senses.
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Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté performing live St. Georges Hall
Just one particularly special ten minutes saw the daylight slowly fade through the small domed ceiling window, the two simple spotlights on the Diabatés simultaneously intensify, as the whole room was bathed in an eerie red while father and son urged their chiming melodies to sweep across the half-darkened auditorium.
A real family affair, the timing was intuitive between the pair, instinctive, with a respectful appreciation for each other’s talents.
After one mesmerising cadenza-type solo from Sidiki, proud father Toumani flung out his arm towards his unassuming son in homage to his wizardry, sparking spontaneous applause in the auditorium. But Sidiki – a hip hop producer in his own right – would merely sheepishly grin, shake his head with embarrassment, and throw the plaudits back at his seminal father, with a similarly enthusiastic gesture. Once again touching, once again respectful.
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Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté performing live St. Georges Hall
This marvellous evening ended with the gentle gorgeous wail of Lampedusa, a homage for 360 Libyan migrants who sank and died trying to reach Europe just last October.
This is a very sweet song, so just close your eyes and dream, Toumani wisely advised us, before sending us into a comforting meditative cocoon we didn’t want to end. Toumani, eschewing his native French to address the crowd in English, brought his hands together in prayer-like fashion to welcome the final applause, and found time to praise the ‘great acoustics’ of Liverpool’s majestic neo-classical amphitheatre.
My English is bad !” exclaimed Toumani in his earnest address about the continuing tragedy of bloodshed in Africa. Far from it, but even if it was, it mattered little. The luxuriant rhapsody of both koras spoke volumes instead.
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Pictures by Getintothis‘ Gaz Jones
Further reading on Getintothis:
Singles Club #91 including Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté
Finlay Quaye to headline Africa Oye 2014
Forest Swords wins GIT Award 2014 as Africa Oye team crowned Inspiration Award winners
Liverpool bands line up for Brazil World Cup 2014.
Forest Swords: From Norse sacrifices to Smooth FM and making the follow up to Engravings.
Twilight Sad to play cult debut album in full in Liverpool.
LIMF 2014: By The Sea, Baltic Fleet & more set for Getintothis & Bido Lito! stage in Sefton Park.
LightNight Liverpool 2014: Cathedral, Black-E, FACT, St Luke’s Churchpicture gallery.
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Review round up and top 10 bands of the festival.
Liverpool Sound City 2014: Picture gallery from all three days of the festival.
Liverpool Sound City 2014 – all the bands reviewed from the three days.

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