Upcoming Mali Trip

Upcoming Mali Trip

In February, I will be traveling to Mali to delve deeper into West African music right in the heart of it. Grammy-winning kora player Toumani Diabate (famous in the west for his collaborations with Ali Farke Toure, Taj Mahal, Bjork) has invited me to study with him in Bamako, and to connect with Malian musicians there.

It will be an honor to learn from Toumani – he is one of Africa’s most sublime and celebrated musicians. While in Bamako, I’ll also be connecting with West African guitarists and other players of traditional instruments. My friend Scottish photographer Douglas Robertson will join me for some of the trip, as we venture out into the country with guitar, lenses, video cameras, and some field recording gear – to explore more of the culture and seek out traditional musicians in village settings.

As many of you know, for about a decade I’ve been directly engaging with West African music. I’ve collaborated in duos with Grammy-winning kora player Mamadou Diabate and with Wassoulou kamale ngoni (hunters harp) master Mamadou Sidibe, apprenticed myself to the multi-layered polyrhythmic foundations of the music, and I’ve been developing ways to translate music from traditional West African stringed instruments to guitar. It’s been wildly inspiring and influential both in my guitar playing and my compositions. My new CD, Planet Solitaire includes guitar versions of several pieces for the kora and kamale ngoni. This unusual approach has drawn interest in the US, UK, and among some established West African musicians.

My hope is that my time with Malian musicians will facilitate cross-cultural learning and magic through the universal language of music, though we’ll often have no common verbal language.

We’re kicking off a fundraising effort to fray some of the trip costs – for equipment, travel, a translator, and other expenses involved. If you’re interested in contributing to this cross-cultural artistic exchange, I’d be so appreciative.