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Derek Gripper and The Strings of Mali!

The November 14th Birthday of Derek Gripper leads to the Music of Mali

originally posted November 15, 2013

So tonight I was reviewing the list of jazz musician birthdays on November 14th and a name that caught my attention was guitarist Derek Gripper, who was born on today’s date in 1977. I read in his biography at All About Jazz that….

Derek Gripper is a composer and guitarist from the Western Cape of South Africa, merging “the imagery and mystery of the rural areas of the Cape” with the techniques of classical guitar and the string music of Africa (uhadi bow, umrhubhe, kora, guitar). Derek calls this new evolution of music New Cape describing it as a “rethinking of the Cape’s transcultural heritage.”

Derek’s solo performances draw on a wealth of original compositions, as well as works by J.S.Bach, Ali Farke Touré, Toumani Diabaté, Dembo Konté, Egberto Gismonti, Heitor Villa Lobos, Benjamin Britten, Toru Takemitsu, and Luis de Narvaez. Read More

Since the uhadi bow, umrhubhe,and  kora, – sounded interesting. I traveled over to MOG to see what Grpper’s music was like. The only album that was listed on MOG was his 2012 release One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali….. I gave the album a quick listen and found the intricate music very pleasing!! After listening for a few minutes, I traveled to Derekgripper.com and read..

In his latest recording “One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali”, Derek Gripper has arranged and performed on classical guitar the compositions of legendary Malian musicians Toumani Diabaté, Ali Farka Touré and Ballaké Sissoke. The extraordinary feat of this recording can only be imagined when one considers that this music was originally composed for and played on the kora, a 21 string African harp-lute, one of Africa’s most beautiful of instruments. UK’s top world music  publication Songlines Magazine called the album ”a staggering achievement,” selecting the recording as a Top of the World album in March 2013.

So who are these musicians from Mali: Toumani Diabaté, and Ali Farka Touré

Toumani Diabaté (born August 10, 1965) is a Malian kora player. In addition to performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other international styles.

Diabaté comes from a long family tradition of kora players including his father Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first ever kora album in 1970. His family’s oral tradition tells of 71 generations of musicians preceding him in a patrilineal line. His cousin Sona Jobarteh is the first female kora player to come from a Griot family. His younger brotherMamadou Sidiki Diabaté is also a prominent kora player.

In 1987, Diabate made his first appearance on an album in the UK, on Ba Togoma, an album featuring his father’s ensemble. In 1988 Diabaté released his first album in the West, a solo album entitled Kaira, recorded in one afternoon in London and produced by Lucy Durán. Read More

and Ali Farka Touré

Ali Ibrahim “Farka” Touré (October 31, 1939 – March 7, 2006) was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist, and one of the African continent’s most internationally renowned musicians.[1] His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues. The belief that the latter is historically derived from the former is reflected in Martin Scorsese’s often quoted characterization of Touré’s tradition as constituting “the DNA of the blues”.[2] Touré was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”[3] and number 37 on Spin magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.[4]

.As the first African bluesman to achieve widespread popularity on his home continent, Touré was often known as “the African John Lee Hooker”.[6] Musically, the many superpositions of guitars and rhythms in his music were similar to John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic blues style. He usually sang in one of several African languages, mostly Songhay, Fulfulde,Tamasheq or Bambara[5] as on his breakthrough album, Ali Farka Touré, which established his reputation in the world music community. Read More
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Ok so now I am even more intrigued by the music of Mali and the above three musicians and I have some heavy listening to do. So Happy Birthday, Derek Gripper – I am glad I stumbled across your music which has lead me to the wonderful music of Mali which I know I will be exploring in more detail soon!!

I did listen to One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali. this morning and love it!  Here is:

Derek Gripper’s arrangement of Toumani Diabaté’s “Jarabi” at the Long Street Slave Church in Cape Town (May 2012). This performance sees a 21-string kora composition from Mali finding its expression on a six-string classical guitar at the same venue in which Diabaté performed in 2009. From the YouTube description