BALLAKE SISSOKO

BALLAKE SISSOKO

 Saint-Ouen, Île-de-France, FRA
BandWorld

ONE OF THE BEST KORA PLAYER OF THE WORLD

Biography

n 2009, in the depths of the Malian night, kora player Ballak Sissoko and cellist Vincent Segal recorded the stripped down dialogues of Chamber Music. The album collected rave reviews and became an instant classic. It was rewarded with a Victoire de la Musique (a French grammy award) and 200 concerts around the world. This kind of popular and critical success would have made the idea of Chamber Music, vol.2 very appealing. But Ballak Sissoko isnt in the business of sequels. Ballaks music is perpetually galvanized by the people he met throughout his life (Toumani Diabat, Taj Mahal, Ludovc Einaudi, Stranded Horse) and by playing the kora every single day. Ballaks music is speech in eternal motion, it rests on the pedestal of Mandinka melody just so it can expand its range, just so it can enrich it with new echoes. At Peace is a major stepping stone on the path between memory and innovation, between an acute knowledge of history and the insatiable thirst of discovery. I didnt want to do Chamber Music all over again, confirmed Ballak Sissoko, I wanted to work in its continuation.

That is why Vincent Segal is participating again. And just like in Chamber Music, he put his skills as a musical director to work. And just like in Chamber Music, the set-up is intimate and only the most essential tools are used no superfluous production tricks, no overdubs. The onus is on spontaneity, and priority given to first takes. But this time around, the number of people involved and the range of formulas used get bigger. Be it in a solo, a duet, a trio or a quintet, Ballak Sissoko loves changing places and momentum. This enables him to put in practice the principles of his music with the upmost fluidity and flexibility. A music that is rooted in Mandinka tradition and is constructed on mutual listening, on a game of call and response, and on the sharing of notes and silences by kindred spirits. The word peace included in the title of the record is not used in vain, it is not just some rhetorical device ; it is the ferment of the sonic and human dough that Ballak Sissoko leavens It is probably his first instrument.

When I want to play with someone, says the Malian musician, I first have to understand the way he works, I have to build a friendship : thats my first reference point. And it takes time to get there. Recorded in Angouleme (in western France) in the studio of jazz bass player Kent Carter, At Peace gathers his long time trusted companions. In addition to Vincent Segal, we will also find Aboubacar Badian Diabat, whose slick yet understated touch on a twelve string guitar are tinted by his previous life as a Ngoni player ; the discrete and essential Moussa Diabat, his ideal partner on the six string guitar ; and Fassry Diabat, whose subtle sketches on the balafon already appeared on the Tomora and Chamber Music albums. Together on the Badjourou and Kalata Diata tracks, the five men produce music that is remarkable for the sophistication of its motifs and its interventions. An art of weaving and conversation that is apparent even in the most intimate tracks : The two kora-guitar duets, Boubalaka and Ntomikorobougou, 10 minute amazing impromptu exchanges between Badian and Ballak in the kora players courtyard in Bamako ; the kora-cello duet Kabou ; and the luminous trio cover of Asa Branca, one of Brazilian musician Luiz Gonzagas classics, that warmly invites the baio nordestin into Mandinka territory.

And this art is even more distilled and sublimated with the solo recordings Maimouna, Nalsonko and Kalanso. In these tracks, Ballak Sissoko expresses the essence of his language by slightly diverting a rhythm, or with a change of cadence or notes, or by using an underused key while at the same time being in key with the music inside him. A unique way of serenely revolutionizing tradition and its legacy, like hes not even touching it. Or in other words, like hes at peace with it.
At Peace relies on the strong bond that unites its actors, but it is also an adventurous record, full of chance encounters and acrobatics. The peace displayed in the album is the peace of the brave, of musicians who arent afraid to rub shoulders with the unexpected and unprecedented. I wanted for people to hear musicians in the process of discovery, musicians who sometimes were surprised by what they are playing, tells Ballak Sissoko. We kept these moments when a sense of questioning lingers, confirmed Vincent Segal, when the musicians who are less confident leave some space to those who are more confident. It creates more contrasts and nuances than when everyone is in complete certainty and there are less silences in between notes. Its still a form of virtuosity, but the energy is different. In the first takes, the musicians display all the experience they have accumulated without the security of knowing what they are going to play. Theyre on an adventure

Discography

Ballaké Sissoko - At Peace (No Format - 2012)
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal - Chamber Music (No Format - 2009)
Ballaké Sissoko - Tomora (Label Bleu/Indigo - 2005)
Ballaké Sissoko - Déli (Label Bleu/Indigo - 2000)
Toumani Diabaté et Ballaké Sissoko - Nouvelles cordes anciennes (1999)

Set List

Various