Toumani Diabaté | Boulevard de L'Independence

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A DeMille like cast of musicians surrounds kora (harp-lute) master Toumani Diabate on this extraordinary, must-have album. Fifty third in a line of master Malian kora players, guardian of a illustrious musical heritage, Diabete has long showed an eagerness to venture along the side tracks of his ancestors. Toumani Diabaté | Boulevard de L'IndependenceTaj Mahal, Damon Albarn, flamenco mavericks Ketama and most recently hallowed Malian blues guitarist Ali Farke Toure have all been musically lifted by Diabate’s tumbling waterfall of notes and fluid, organic phrasing. Now it’s the maestro’s turn to shine. The eye in the storm of his traditional-meets-modern dance band Symmetric Orchestra – guitar-swinging, percussion-thumping stalwarts of the Hogon Club in Bamako – Diabete displays but never parades his talent amidst traditional instruments such as ngoni (lute) and balafon (xylophone) as well as the attendant modern gear. Featuring a brass section led by Gorillaz musical director Mike Smith and evergreen hornsman Pee Wee Ellis (whom World Circuit must surely have given a retainer), and the celestial voices of top locals including Kasse Mady Diabate, Boulevard de L’Independence blazes a trail through African music as we think we know it. Funky, rootsy, rewarding stuff.