Exotic? All right. But very appealing. More precisely, the music recorded on the album "Mali in Oak" is incredibly exciting. A marriage of the western guitar with the West African plucked Kora. Surprising and at the same time attractive to this exotic connection is that the western instrument, the acoustic guitar, time and again adapts itself strongly to the mode of play of the Kora, without, however, permanently letting the contrast drop from the agenda, which results from the interplay and the nature of the different instruments, resulting in music, in a very attractive, hitherto unheard kind of music.
And indeed, Derek Gripper, the classically trained South African guitarist, devoted to jazz, is capable of mirroring on his instrument, the twelve-string guitar, the acoustic appearance of the twenty-one-string Kora so skillfully that his playing is infused by the Kora's spirit. So far and deep Derek Gripper has invaded the world of the Kora over the years that he ranks as her Messiah in the western hemisphere. In addition to jazz, he also infected the classical music world with the Kora’s spirit. For example, the Kronos Quartet, which has always sensitively responded to contemporary trends in the world of music, has premiered Kora-based arrangements by Derek Gripper.
The English-born Tunde Jegede gives the virtuosic Kora harpist on "Mali in Oak". Already as a child, he learned to play the Kora in Mali. Today, Tunde Jegede is a successful composer and multi-instrumentalist in the field of contemporary classical, African and pop music. Like Derek Gripper, Tunde Jegede also is devoted to jazz, so that the two could quickly find a common language, indeed a high affinity, to bring the obviously different instruments guitar and Kora on "Mali in Oak" in harmony with each other, and to tell each other stories from West Africa, which are circulating as folk songs in many different versions. In the first song, two different versions of one and the same folk song come together, rubbing rhythmically and melodically, releasing unimagined synergetic energies. In the next song, the (successful) hunt of a hippo by a white hunter at the confluence of two rivers, but also in the third song "Jarabi", a detailed improvised traditional, the two instruments arrive at better mutual understanding. On "Miniyamba", Derek Gripper, inspired by John Williams, transfers the play of two Koras to a single guitar, a tour de force, which is not possible, but which the guitarist realizes surprisingly virtuosic, and which Tunde Jegede finally completes with his Kora quasi to the trio. After a series of solos, both musicians by improvising on further West African folk songs jointly advance the finishing line of the album, the special charm of which continues to resonate in the listener for a long time, turning a gray into a bright, sunny day.
The sound technique lovingly reproduces the Kora sound from the original instrument as well as the imitation through the guitar. Particularly recommendable is the playback by headphones, bringing the magic of this album shielded from the surrounding still nearer to the listener.
Tunde Jegede, kora
Derek Gripper, guitar