Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali

Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali

I first encountered the work of Malick Sidibé after he had he became the first photographer – and the first African artist – to receive the Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2007. In his photographs, made in and around Mali’s capital, Bamako, in the early years of independence in the 1960s and 70s, I found the perfect visualisation of the country’s music that I had known and loved since discovering it in the 1980s.

So when I was in London recently, I hot footed it to the first exhibition of his work in the UK now on at Somerset House. Bringing together 45 original prints, the show captures the exuberance of newly independent Mali in the 1960s and ’70s; through Sidibé’s lens we glimpse scenes of a youthful, joyous Mali of carefree swimming parties on the banks of the Niger, partying and dancing in the city’s thriving clubs, and studio portraits of proud Malians showing off their latest outfit or prized possession. Sidibé images are an expression of a different era, a happier time in a country whose recent history has been beset by trouble and violence. Continue reading “Malick Sidibé at Somerset House: the photographer who captured a youthful, joyous Mali”

The Kronos Quartet at RNCM: all kinds of music, every which way

The Kronos Quartet at RNCM: all kinds of music, every which way

There was a rare opportunity on Sunday evening to catch the Kronos Quartet in concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.  No strangers to the capital, they rarely tour the UK as extensively as they are doing this month.

Kronos may look like a conventional string quartet (since 2013, they have consisted of founder David Harrington on violin; John Sherba, violin; Hank Dutt, viola; and Sunny Yang – the most recent recruit to the group – on cello), but their repertoire and approach to their instruments is far from conventional.

The quartet has been in existence for over 40 years, with only the cello player changing in that time. The eclectic Kronos repertoire draws largely – though far from exclusively – on 20th and 21st century contemporary classical music, and they are renowned for championing new music of all genres and from all parts of the world. All of which was evident in the exciting programme they presented at the RNCM. Before a packed concert hall, the Quartet drew a rapturous reception, and the thunderous applause they got at the close compelled the musicians to return to the stage four times for encores.

Continue reading “The Kronos Quartet at RNCM: all kinds of music, every which way”

Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM

Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM

Last weekend, at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, we were treated to a stunning display of instrumental virtuosity by Ballake Sissoko, kora master from Mali, and Vincent Segal, French conservatory-trained cellist. Since 2009 the pair have recorded three albums together, delicate and lovely conversations between instruments from two classical music traditions. Continue reading “Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM”

Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity

Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity

Another visit last night to Liverpool’s excellent new music venue, The Music Room at the Philharmonic, to see a superb display of guitar virtuosity from Vieux Farka Toure. Son of Ali Farka Toure, his playing is still reminiscent at times of his father’s style, but there’s no doubt that he has now emerged as guitarist with a style that is uniquely his own, a jaw-dropping blend of psychedelic blues-rock à la Hendrix and the loping, rhythmic desert blues played by Saharan bands like Tinarwen or Tamikrest. Continue reading “Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity”

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library

Passing through London on our way back from the David Jones show in Chichester, I decided to take a look at the current exhibition at the British Library: West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song. It’s an ambitious survey of literature, art and music from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to expressions of rapid cultural and political change across West Africa in recent decades. Continue reading “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song at the British Library”

The music in my head (part 2): West Africa and beyond

The music in my head (part 2): West Africa and beyond

This is the second of three posts which round up some of the music that I’ve enjoyed in 2015 but never got round to writing about. This one discusses music from beyond these shores that I have been listening to in 2015, particularly some fine West African releases. Continue reading “The music in my head (part 2): West Africa and beyond”

Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom

<em>Timbuktu</em>: a stunning cry for freedom

Timbuktu, from the Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako is a stunning film and likely to be the best I’ll see this year. It’s a portrait of the country of the director’s childhood, and particularly of the city of Timbuktu, whose rich culture and traditional tolerance were trampled and its people terrorised when jihadi forces from outside the country swept in three years ago. Continue reading Timbuktu: a stunning cry for freedom”