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Trio Da Kali / Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet photographed in Berkeley, CA December 12, 2013©Jay BlakesbergIt’s been my experience that no time spent checking out the Kronos Quartet’s latest activity is ever wasted, and the group’s new album, Ladilikan, in which they accompany Mali’s Trio Da Kali, is a beauty. The meeting between the voice of Hawa Diabaté, the balafon of Lassana Diabaté and the bass ngoni of Mamadou Kouyaté and the violins of David Harrington and John Sherba, the viola of Hank Dutt and the cello of Sunny Yang turns out to sound like something that has always existed, somewhere in the universe.

The primary impression is one of rhythmic vitality, with the quartet locking naturally into the trio’s two instruments to create a thoroughly integrated sextet, providing a lovely setting for Hawa Diabaté’s graceful contralto. In between the vocal passages, the band vamps with delicate power and a groove that is at times almost delirious. Approaching the conclusion of the stunning “Lila Bambo”, they come together in a unison coda that sweeps you off your feet.

Halfway through the album they give us something that might well become a classic. At Harrington’s suggestion, Hawa Diabaté sings Mahalia Jackson’s “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away”, with the original organ accompaniment transcribed for the string quartet; the words are translated into Bambara, the first among more than 40 languages spoken by Mali’s various ethnic groups. The controlled ardour of the voice and the grain of the strings — which together recreate the slightly wheezy sound of a portable harmonium — are irresistible (you can hear a snatch of it in this short trailer).

Meticulously produced by Nick Gold and Lucy Duran for the former’s World Circuit label, Ladilikan could well end up being the album I give to friends and family this Christmas. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving it.

* Trio Da Kali play at the Musicport Festival in Whitby on October 21, then at Opera North, Leeds (22), St Barnabas Church, Oxford (25) and the Old Church, Stoke Newington,  London N16 (26).

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paul Crowe #

    Beautiful, Richard. Looking forward to buying the album. Thanks for the tip.

    October 12, 2017
  2. Thank you for such a thoughtful review and for your passionate response to the music. I’m very proud of this production!

    October 12, 2017
  3. I´ve just had a listen. Fantastic.

    October 12, 2017
  4. GuitarSlinger #

    Been following and listening to Kronos since their emergence into the public eye and you’re right in saying everything Kronos does is worth checking out . Sounds like this collaboration is a particular gem … so on the CDs to be purchased list it goes

    October 12, 2017
  5. Peter F. #

    Thanks, Richard, for this great recommendation. Grabbed a couple if tracks yesterday – both beautiful, and Ladilikan itself is stunning, everything blends together as if there could be no other way. I often put this kind of intricacy on the ‘listen later when I can give it the propervconcentration it deserves’ list, then never get to it. But this just pushed everything aside. Dinner came very late in the evening, as a result. Brilliant!

    October 13, 2017
  6. Mick Steels #

    On most of the tracks I find the contribution of the Quartet an unnecessary embellishment to the beauty of The Trio. “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” works well and the final track “Sunjata” is absolutely stunning with minimal contribution from Kronos.
    Generally though I find the collaboration unsatisfactory from two excellent groups, like “Bird with Strings” better in theory than practice

    October 13, 2017
    • GuitarSlinger #

      You have my ultimate condolences for your lack of taste , hearing and discernment

      October 14, 2017
      • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have no intention of allowing this blog to become a platform for negativity and abuse, however mild. It’s intended to be a vehicle for sharing enthusiasms. Let’s keep it that way. (Droit de seigneur allows me the sole exception: Whiplash.)

        October 14, 2017

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