Sidiki Diabate and Walter Strauss

Kora and Guitar from Mali to California

At the core of this collaboration are three hot evenings spent in the bustling family courtyard of kora player Toumani Diabate in Bamako, Mali. Three meetings where Californian guitarist Walter Strauss and Malian kora player Sidiki Diabate met and laid the groundwork for this new cross-cultural project, armed with their instruments and no common language.

When Walter traveled to Mali in 2012, he went to study the music of West Africa with master kora player and two-time Grammy award winner Toumani Diabate, and to connect with other Malian musicians. Toumani is revered in his home country and the world over for his virtuosity on the 21-stringed African harp and his original playing style.

Although Walter is a guitarist, he went to explore the music of the kora with Toumani and to collaborate with other Malian musicians to further understand the music he loves to translate from the kora to guitar. This is quite a feat, and one that quickly won him the respect of Malian musicians and audiences alike. So much so that Toumani proposed that Walter form a duo with his son, kora prodigy Sidiki Diabate.

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Walter Strauss and Sidiki Diabate in Edinburgh 2013

In these three meetings, Walter and Sidiki put together the bones for a record’s worth of songs – themes, beginnings and endings, a framework within which to improvise and communicate in the studio. They recorded guitar and kora live at Studio Africa in Mali, and subsequently completed the CD with the production skills of Walter and of Toumani himself.

Audiences will soon get the chance to enjoy this music with the release of their dazzling new album Bamako-Frisco Express. Stay tuned for upcoming news about the release.

In January 2014, Walter and Sidiki met in Glasgow, Scotland for their first major performances together – playing to spellbound audiences at the Celtic Connections International Festival, with Brazilian bassist Mario Caribe.

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Sidiki Diabate and Walter Strauss in Bamako, Mali


About Sidiki Diabate:

Sidiki is the son of two time Grammy-winning kora legend Toumani Diabate and grandson of Sidiki Diabate, the King of Kora. It was inevitable then, that this young man would follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and become the 72nd generation in this esteemed family of musicians. But Sidiki has worked hard for the recognition he has received in his homeland. At just 23, he is well known as an energetic and innovative musician. Diabate has also won great acclaim for his work as a composer, singer and sound engineer, and moves easily between the traditional music of West Africa and contemporary hip hop. His collaboration with top Malian rapper IBA One has won him awards at home, whilst his collaboration with his father Toumani has introduced him to international audiences. Their 2014 album – Toumani and Sidiki – recorded with famed producer Nick Gold (Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farke Toure), was nominated for a Grammy award and they’ve been on a critically acclaimed tour worldwide.