Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Salam Sounds

Researching that last post has got me to pondering the ways in which the kora, the traditional 21-string harp-lute of West Africa, has been combined with more modern sounds. There are plenty of examples, from the musical fusions of Foday Musa Suso and Djeli Moussa Diawara to Toumani Diabate's collaborations with Taj Mahal and Björk, to, incredibly, Naughty By Nature's 1991 smash hit "O.P.P."

None of these attempts to update the classic sound, in my opinion, approach the pure polyphonic joy of Ebrima Tata Jobateh's cassette Waato, recorded with his group Salam (apparently members of his extended family) and released by Kerewan Sounds in Gambia in 1995.

Efforts to find out more about this mysterious artist didn't yield much save this observation by Nick Deen of Natari: ". . . Tata's solo style is extremely impressive and in fact leaves the older Paris-based kora players like
Mory Kante very much in the shade. Absolute magic all the way through." Of course, I wholeheartedly agree with Nick's assessment! Hear for yourself:

Tata & Salam Band - San-Chaba

Tata & Salam Band - Sabarla

Tata & Salam Band - Mali-Gambia

Tata & Salam Band - Boto Sanneh

Tata & Salam Band - Mariama Jallow

Tata & Salam Band - Kaira

Tata & Salam Band - Duwa

Tata & Salam Band - Alagie Danso

You can download Waato as a zipped file here. More new-fangled kora sounds to follow.


nauma said...

Fantastic,John-best wishes.

Africolombia said...

Hello john.
this is my new site,


Steve Pile said...

Great blog. I love this Kora stuff. Am finishing up producing an album for Jali Bakary Konteh, Tata's cousin. Featuring some of the musicians on this album. I will definitely send it your way when it drops.
wondering what the Kora sample is in OPP...the little 2 note thing over the ABC sample?

John B. said...

Steve: Yes. I've never read that it's actually a kora, but I'm positive it is. I've always wondered where the sample came from. Maybe one of Herbie Hancock's recordings with Foday Musa Suso?

Steve Pile said...

yeah. the way the second note rings out sounds kora like for sure. And foday style too. all tuned up high. Cool! I spend a lot of time with the salaam band when I am in Gambia! I have this on a poorly recorded tape somewhere. This is a better version.
My kora teacher, Jali Bakary Konteh, is Tata's 2nd kora player in the band.

Steve Pile said...

tata can be found here:

urijenny said...

Espectacular. Muchas gracias.

Spinning said...

Thanks so much for the recording, and for the whole "new kora" series.

I rely on this blog every bit as much for information as i do for the music. John, you do a superb job, and I'm not sure how you find the time!

Many thanks to your daughter for various translations, too.

all the best,

BarryB said...

Thanks for the extraordinary music, and you're right: it's far better than the Paris-influenced kora-lite we're used to, elsewhere. I'm recovering from a cervical fusion, so up at odd hours, from 5:30; hearing this keeps me happy, indeed! Can hardly wait til my wife rises and I can play the whole thing to her.