Two continents meet:
West African hunter’s harp and fingerstyle guitar
When American guitarist Walter Strauss and Malian kamale ngoni player Mamadou Sidibe engage in a musical interplay of finger-style guitar and West African hunter’s harp, the result is a deep, soulful music that is simultaneously ancient and fresh. They create an intoxicating blend through intertwining melodic grooves, spirited improvisation, and songs in two languages.
To hear these two musicians from far flung places collaborate is to take in two souls, listening and greeting one another in a universal language – seamlessly interweaving two continents and two bright musical sensibilities.
Mamadou Sidibe played a major role in transforming the popular Wassoulou music of Mali. He was one of the first to break with tradition by creating the now widely used eight-string kamale ngoni, a lute-harp-like instrument that exudes a deep, soulful sound. Mamadou broadened the songs from sacred hunters melodies to a popular music of philosophical observations, politics and daily African life. Stylus magazine calls his music, “an almost seamless blend of blues licks and African rhythms. At the center of his music is the same sensibility that you’ll find in Muddy Waters: a sense of music as a tool for the re-creation of everyday life into something special, even magical.”
Mamadou has toured with Malian greats Oumou Sangare, Coumba Sidibe, and Toumani Diabate in Africa, Europe and the US. Since settling on the west coast, he’s garnered various awards, including Grand Prize at the John Lennon Songwriting Competition (World Music), Winner of the Billboard Songwriting Contest (World Category), and Winner of Global Rhythm Magazine Song Contest.
Walter Strauss began collaborating with West African musicians in the late 90’s, when he and Grammy-winning Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate ventured on a cross-cultural collaboration that resulted in several groundbreaking duo tours. Known for his syncopated and richly textured playing, he started combining elements of West African & other global music traditions with his roots and jazz inspired foundations. Walter began transposing the multi-layered music of the kora, the 21-string West African harp, to guitar, creating mind-bending renditions of this music which famed kora player Toumani Diabate calls “inspirational”. He layers on highly articulated melodies and harmonies, rhythms and counter-rhythms, creating an impression he is playing multiple instruments at once. Informed by over a decade of rendering music of international instruments to the guitar, Walter’s unique style integrates their exotic fabrics and timbres, and “hints at places the guitar has never before ventured” (Northern Sky).
Walter performs internationally, both solo and in collaborations with artists as varied as Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate, American guitarist Alex de Grassi, and Scottish fiddler Jonny Hardie. His recent journey to West Africa spawned a duo collaboration with Grammy-nominated kora player Sidiki Diabate, the son of Toumani Diabate.