In partnership with the BBC Concert orchestra
Nottingham based Senegalese composer and kora player Seckou Keita is proud to present African Rhapsodies: an epic project created in collaboration with Italian composer and musician Davide Mantovani, due to be released via Swiss label Claves Records in May. African Rhapsodies is an enchanting, kora-led work, enhanced by the power of The BBC Concert Orchestra. In this inspiring blend of African music with orchestral arrangements, the traditional West African 22 stringed harp takes pride of place perfectly where the violin, piano or flute may have been. This rare blend of traditions and the synergy that it achieves makes one wonder if Bach, Beethoven or even Stéphane Grappelli might have composed for kora had they travelled to Africa in their lifetime.
On African Rhapsodies, Seckou Keita is joined by South African star cellist and vocalist Abel Selaocoe, outstanding double bass player Davide Mantovani and up and coming Gambian percussionist / kora player Suntou Susso. These brilliant, international, special guest soloists are the perfect protagonists to harness the excellence of the BBC Concert Orchestra and generate a new sound that only they personally (alongside Seckou) could create.
A beautiful and engaging narrative is woven throughout the work. Each piece in African Rhapsodies charts its own individual story, cultivating a range of atmospheres and cinematic journeys. With titles as delightfully intriguing as Tamala’s Caravan Trail; Bamba, The Light of Touba; The Shadow Left by the Invisible Man and L’Épopée Mande Arab, African Rhapsodies references some wonderfully diverse tales that add an extra level of enjoyment to the music itself. [..]
African Rhapsodies has been made possible thanks to a partnership with the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Radio 3, Orchestre National de Bretagne, Lakeside Arts Centre, The University of Nottingham and PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund.
Read more in the booklet
Seckou Keita (Kora & Voice)
Since arriving in the UK in 1999, Seckou has been on an epic creative journey that has seen him broaden the idiomatic scope of his instrument as well as spread his wings, literally and figuratively.
Nicknamed ”Hendrix of the Kora”, Seckou has been celebrated for his ingenious tunings and virtuosity and praised as “one of the finest exponents of the kora”.
Born in 1978 in Ziguinchor, the main town in Senegal’s southern region of Casamance, Seckou’s father was descended from the great founder of the Malian Empire, Sunjiata Keita, but was not involved in his upbringing. Instead the family was presided over by his maternal grandfather, Jali Kemo Cissokho, a revered griot and kora master. “My earliest memories are of music,” Seckou says. He started his music apprenticeship with drumming, picking up the kora along the way. “Listening, observing and then playing” as is the long traditional process of learning.
In his teens he travelled to Dakar to play concerts with his uncle Jali Solo Cissokho, another of his key mentors, and at 14 he was given his own kora, a symbolic moment marking the end of his apprenticeship. That same year he accompanied another uncle, Sadio Cissokho, to Norway to take part in a collaborative project with Cuban and Indian musicians. It was the start of a passion for cross-cultural collaboration and the beginning of a mission to globalise the kora and take its sound far beyond the confines of its West African context.
To this day he regards himself as both a drummer and a kora player. “Drumming for me is about the heartbeat, about connecting with the earth, with joy, with dance. Whereas the kora can make you cry – for all the right reasons,” Seckou notes.
Performing all over the globe as a solo artist and with his ground-breaking quintet, he has captivated audiences at WOMAD, Hay, Glastonbury, Tokyo Jazz, Chicago World Music Festival, Sydney International, Montreal Jazz Festivals and many more places.
Acclaimed collaborations with numerous jazz, pop, latin, folk and classical artists, notably include Damon Albarn, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, AKA trio with Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale, Paul Weller and the Folk Collective The Lost Words, Spell Songs joined by the words of Robert McFarlane and artwork of Jackie Morris. Since 2007, he has had several opportunities to perform with classical ensembles including. Orchestre National de Bretagne, which has spurred him towards his dream of leading an orchestral work specifically for the kora.
Overall, Seckou has released12 albums as a leader and co-leader. Through this work, he has earned numerous accolades including three Songlines Music Awards, and several BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including 2019 Musician of the Year.
More information www.seckoukeita.com
About the kora and the griot tradition
The kora is a sophisticated instrument from West Africa made from gourd, leather, wood, metal and fishing lines. Folklore tells us that it was given to Jali Mady Wuleng centuries ago. At that time it had 22 strings, but a string was taken away when he died. Most koras have had 21 strings since then. In Southern Senegal and northern Guinea, this 22nd string still remains, giving the instrument greater versatility. In the griot tradition music is passed through the generations. Griots are the preservers of stories and history as well as mediators and diplomats. Seckou inherited the griot tradition from his mother’s side of the family. His father is a descendant of Sunjiata Keita, founder of the Malian Empire. This makes Seckou half griot and half Keita, both eulogiser and eulogised.
Davide Mantovani (Double bass)
Davide Mantovani is an Italian bass player and composer whose work spans across jazz, world and classical musical genres. He is one of those rare composers who has a flawless understanding and feel for South American, Caribbean, Eastern European and African music which can be heard in his album Choices released in 2012. He has performed all over the world with Lisa Stansfield, Monica Vasconcelos, Ingrid Laubrock, Carol Grimes, Roberto Pla, Seckou Keita and Natacha Atlas amongst others.
BBC Concert Orchestra
BBC Concert Orchestra is one of Britain's most versatile ensembles with a mission to bring inspiring musical experiences to everyone, everywhere, with the ensemble’s versatility as the key.
The orchestra can be heard on BBC Radio 2’s Sunday Night Is Music Night and for BBC Radio 3 it explores a wide selection of music, ranging from classical to contemporary. Along with its regular engagements throughout the UK, the orchestra tours internationally.
BBC Concert Orchestra, Mark Heron
Seckou Keita: kora/voice
Abel Selaocoe: cello/voice
Davide Mantovani: double-bass
Suntou Susso: percussion
Produced by / Produit par Seckou Keita & Chélima
Recorded at Watford Colosseum, UK
Recording producer for BBC CO: Neil Varley
Recording engineers: Rob Winter, Chris Rouse, Martin Appleby, Duncan Rhodes
Music editor & pcore/Parts preparation by Jean Hasse
Recording engineers for extra vocals: Tom Colvin
Edited by Robert Winter & Tom Colvin
Mixed by Tom Colvin
Mastering by Klaus Scheuermann
More information www.seckoukeita.com