Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba
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Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band World Afropop




"Diali Cissokho And Kaira Ba at WQFS (CMJ)"

Diali Cissokho And Kaira Ba at WQFS

This week, we found WQFS giving Greensboro a blast of West African dance music in the form of Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, who secured a Top 200 spot with The Great Peace. Cissokho stands front and center as master of dance, vocals, and the kora, but it’s the rest of the band who lay down the infectious and irresistible jazz and funk infused grooves. Your challenge for the day is to try not to tap your foot to this. - Shannon Moore, CMJ

"Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba Nominated for Pan-African Music Award"

North Carolina-based Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba have been nominated for an AFRIMA Award in the category “Best African Group." Nominees for this prestigious award are chosen by a panel of judges from across the African continent. Kaira Ba was nominated for the track Mbolo off their album The Great Peace after it was released earlier this year in the US and West Africa. Kaira Ba was the only band based outside of Africa selected for nomination. Other nominees for AFRIMA awards this year include the likes of Angelique Kidjo and Mafikizolo. The winners of the AFRIMA awards will be announced during an awards ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria on November 9.
Of their nomination, bassist Jonathan Henderson says, “The band is so excited that our music is traveling back to Diali’s home and connecting with people there. We are very honored by this nomination, and feel we owe a great debt to the many musicians who’ve influenced and shaped this collaboration. We are particularly aware of our status as the only US-based band in the list of nominees, and are grateful that the AFRIMA committee has found in our music something worth appreciating. ...We’ve all poured our hearts into this music over the years and we’re proud that it’s being acknowledged.”
Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba features Senegalese griot kora player Diali Keba Cissokho who hails from a famed lineage of musicians dating back to the 14th century in his native West Africa. Together, Kaira Ba creates a distinctive and refreshing musical style that’s been describe as at once ancient and modern. - All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) 2014

"12 North Carolina Bands You Should Listen To Now"

2. Diali Cissokho & Kairaba
Hometown: Carrboro
Album: Resonance (2012)
Diali Cissokho, Kairaba’s bandleader and kora player, hails from a long line of Griot musicians in Senegal. But moving an ocean away from his musical past has only strengthened Cissokho’s resolve to enliven the traditional sound. With four Tar Heel natives behind him, Cissokho & Kairaba create a universally appealing sound full of bright tones and driving polyrhythm. - Paste Magazine

"Merge Records"

"The powerful vocals and kora of Diali Cissokho place this album firmly in the tradition of great Senegalese musicians such as Baaba Maal & Youssou N'Dour. The collaboration with NC musicians of Kaira Ba only makes the album more unique." - Mac McCaughan, (Owner) Merger Records

"New Music From Mande America: “Benyoro” and “The Great Peace”"

Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba is another tight, cooking U.S.-based ensemble whose sound KairaBa_CD__webis deeply rooted in Mande tradition. Senegalese vocalist, songwriter and kora player Cissokho leads the group, which includes a superb Senegalese percussionist (Mame Cheikh Njigal Dieng) and four talented American players, all clearly well schooled in West African music. The band’s second CD also brings in a number of guest players, notably a punchy brass section, which adds a satisfying big band feel to the group’s sharp, roots pop arrangements.

The title of this self-produced CD is a translation of Kaira Ba, The Great Peace, and right away, we know that this is a group with a message. Cissoko composes songs, and adapts traditional Mande pieces, in order to sing about war and peace, the evils of politics, his family members, and Sufi Islam in Senegal. The brassy Mande pop number “Balla Gueye” even sends a shout-out to a popular traditional wrestler in Senegal. These themes, and the prominence of Cissokho’s husky vocal, distinguishes this group from the Toubab Krewe formula of relying mostly on instrumental prowess and arranging.

That said, the playing here is strong throughout, particularly when Cissokho intertwines his kora lines with the clean, clear guitar work of John Westmoreland, as on “Fallou (The Guardian),” an ebullient Mande pop number reminiscent of Salif Keita’s timeless hit “Tekere,” or “Alanole (No One Can Know God),” an adaptation of the Mande classic “Keme Burama.” “Alanole” also features an unexpected, lyrical violin solo from guest Gabriel Pelli. Another standout among these 11 tracks is “Bamba Wotena (Amadu Bamba is Calling),” which begins in a smoldering, minor-key lope and builds to a beautifully orchestrated gallop, fired by explosive sabar hand-and-stick percussion—all an elaborate tribute to a champion of the Senegalese Baye Fall religious brotherhood and its underlying lifestyle and philosophy.

Diali Cissokho’s kora opens a number of these songs, and he’s an elegant player, capable of meditative sensitivity (“Mere Khadi, My Heart, Returned”) and unbridled, joyful energy (“Baye Fall”). Cissokho’s vocals have a less universal appeal; they can be gruff and a tad strained at times, contrasting with the smooth contours of the music.

Collaborations between American and West African musicians are a mark of our time, but also an inevitable reflection of our shared histories. None of these bands have broken through to the mainstream yet, but it could happen. But as these two show in their new recordings, the chemistry is deepening and the level of ambition rising, as the process of channeling the Afro-Atlantic saga into contemporary popular music continues. - Banning Eyre, Afropop Worldwide

"WUNC's The State Of Things"

"Kaira Ba has a sound that will blow you away. These talented musicians produce gorgeous melodies, meaningful lyrics and compelling rhythms in a rich blend of traditions that is at once unique and universal." - Frank Stacio, Host of The State Of Things on North Carolina Public Radio WUNC

"Columbia Museum Of Art"

"I've been here for 12 years, and this is the best band I've ever seen here!" - Leslie Pierce, Programs Director, Columbia Museum of Art

""...Kaira Ba just might be the state's next great export.""

Aside from introducing area audiences to harp-banjo-dulcimer centaur the kora, Senegalese émigré Diali Cissokho has also effectively and impressively put his instrument at the helm of a rock band. Sure, some of this ensemble's drums are played with hands rather than sticks, and Kaira Ba's songs aren't erected or edited for typical formats. But the dynamics at work within this five-piece—the way the songs build, spiral and surge into moments of sudden triumph—should sync well with new Western listeners. Kaira Ba just might be the state's next great export. - Grayson Currin, INDY Week

"The 'Undeniable Pulse' of African Music"

CARRBORO -- Diali Cissokho plays a melody on the kora, a traditional West African string instrument, which he duplicates with his voice. At this rehearsal, the sound of his kora bounces off of a rock-like vamp that John Westmoreland plays on electric guitar. Jonathan Henderson plays a pattern and also does some improvisation on bass, while Will Ridenour and Austin McCall weave complex and intricate rhythms as well as grooves on drums and percussion.

They are the members of Kairaba, and even if you do not dance, you cannot help but move to this music. At a recent concert at the Bynum Front Porch series, by the end of the set, the majority of the audience was dancing, Henderson said. "It's really hard not to want to engage this music on that level," he said. "It has that undeniable pulse." Other audience members prefer to listen and watch, enjoying the improvisation and interplay of the instruments, Ridenour added.

Both responses, and many variations of them, are fine, because in Kairaba's sound you are exposed to traditional West African music, and elements of the blues, jazz, rock and other traditions.

Kairaba, who will perform their first Durham date at the Pinhook Saturday, started when Cissokho moved to the area from his native Senegal about a year ago. Cissokho, who in addition to kora also sings and plays percussion, comes from a long line of musicians in the griot tradition. In Manding tradition, the griot is a musician who also is a story teller, historian and adviser who carries on the village's culture and history to future generations. Cissokho's mother, MoussuKeba Diebate, and his father, Ibrahima Cissokho, both come from the griot tradition.

When he moved to this country, Diali Cissokho told his wife that "music is my life," that he needed to find some musicians with whom to play. She first put him in touch with guitarist Westmoreland, who soon put him in touch with McCall, who plays drum set and other percussion. They were a trio for awhile, until McCall told him about Ridenour (who also plays kora, but played congas and djembe at this rehearsal). He was happy with the sound, Cissokho said, but realized he did not have a bass player, and recruited Henderson.

"I'm so happy to have this band," Cissokho said. "Right now we're family."

Kairaba is a fusion of many musical traditions. Westmoreland, Henderson and McCall have played rock, the blues and jazz. Ridenour has studied drumming traditions of West African and many other countries. McCall said that before he, Westmoreland and Ridenour met Cissokho, they had played West African styles of music. "We all had an idea of what the music sounded like and studied it as much as we could," McCall said. Cissokho is "a true griot that came to this area," he added.

Henderson, who grew up playing rhythm and blues and jazz and has studied Cuban music, said he hears African music in all those styles. "We're all students of these traditions in a way," he said. "I feel like there are common threads … that come out of what Diali comes from" in West Africa.

The kora resembles a harp, except that the strings are attached to a bridge. A gourd provides the sound box. It has two rows of strings, which are played with the thumb and index finger. One set of strings is tuned to a major scale, and the other usually to a mode.

The beauty of its sound brings tears to many listeners, Ridenour said. "In a way it gives people permission to cry. … It's a very striking instrument."

All the members Kairaba are writing compositions for a CD they hope to release in the fall, Henderson said. "We're feeling really enthusiastic about the way the record's going to sound," he said.

Read more: The Herald-Sun
- The Herald-Sun

"Kairaba is born out of the sounds of Senegal"

There`s a song on Resonance, the debut album by Diali Cissokho & Kairaba!, entitled “Mali Sadio” that’s based on the griot’s legend of an enchanted hippopotamus that offers peace to the Malian village of Bafoulabe in exchange for a marriage to one woman’s astoundingly beautiful daughter. The story goes that harmless gossip turned to outright jealousy over time, and the men of the village sought to kill the animal, which in turn brought great hardships to the village. The lesson? Nothing good can come from talking excessively about other people, whether good or bad. The existence of Kairaba! (pronounced kai-ra-bah, meaning “the great peace”) disputes its claim, however. Without the name Diali Cissokho (pronounced Jeh-li See-so-ho) ringing out in some music circles, the captivating African fusionists might not have come to be.

Cissokho, who emigrated around two years ago after marrying Hilary Stewart while the Pittsboro native was studying abroad, calls Kairaba! a “happy accident.” The 29-year-old kora master and griot (storyteller) Cissokho hails from a celebrated, centuries-old lineage of kora players — if asked, he’ll say he comes from the kora — and sought to make ends performing. He was instantly legitimized in the eyes of the esteemed Charles Davis, or Baba Chuck, of the African American Dance Ensemble in Durham after performing a particularly old piece uncommon to younger players. “It was a song before my father brung life. It is an old song,” Cissokho said. “Baba Chuck asked me, ‘How you know this song? How you play this? You are so young.’ I said, ‘I got a good memory.’” It was just one among the countless traditional pieces that Cissokho had been absorbing from his father Ibrahima Cissokho, who was once the personal griot to the first president of Senegal, since he was four years old. Then, his name spread. Will Ridenhour, who had designs on forming a dance group with world influences along with fellow Paperhand Puppet Intervention bandmate Austin McCall, sought him out after hearing there was another kora player in the area. Drummer McCall had already established a musical relationship with Cissokho, practicing as a trio with guitarist John Westmoreland, by the time Ridenhour joined as band percussionist. Bassist Jonathan Henderson would later round out the quintet.

Mostly rooted in jazz and R&B, no one else in the group save for Ridenhour had been specifically schooled in African music, but Cissokho would establish himself as a powerful gravitational force as he pulled the other members into creative orbit around him. He gave Westmoreland albums by his favorite African artist, the Afropop singer Salif Keita, whose Berklee instruction allowed him to quickly adapt to the taxing fluidity that is demanded of a counter melody to the kora. They were a band now, which in Cissokho’s eyes means they are essentially a family. Even though Kairaba! is centered on Cissokho’s stern devotion to the traditional sounds of Senegal and he insists they could never teach him something new about kora, he does listen to American ideas about things like intonation and tuning.

“In Africa, we don’t use tuners. We use memory. You know what sound you want,” he stated. “The sound doesn’t change to you, but it can change to others.”

Several of the 11 tracks on Resonance show Cissokho making personal stylistic concessions in regard for that familial mentality. The second sound heard on the opening track “Kaira,” after Cissokho’s kora, is the salient flourish of the band’s part-time horn section. Cissokho himself is adamant in saying that there are no horns in his own personal style, but if Kairaba! wants them as a part of their musical conversation, then so be it.

“I like culture. I like tradition,” he said. “We say,’Okay, we are family, we make a band together.’ When someone says, ‘I don’t like that,’ and others say, ‘Yes I do like it,’ what can I say? It’s just me; I have to say yes. I love horns, but I don’t hear it in my sound.” - Yes Weekly!

"The Broad Folk Resonance of Kairaba"

In the opening frames of the music video for Kairaba's "Mali Sadio," a fishing boat in stark silhouette cruises across the glittering horizon just off the coast of Mbour, Senegal. Back on the beach, the five members of Kairaba pose on rocks alongside the Atlantic surf, outfitted with their instruments—a strange assortment of kora, djembe, drumsticks, bass and electric guitars.

The camera moves down dusty streets, past graffiti, through flowering bougainvillea archways and inside a bar tiled with a mosaic of a baobab tree. "Au Programme: Diali Cissokho & Kairaba!," a sign proclaims. Women in long red skirts dance to Kairaba's drum break.

"Senegal is built for video," says drummer Austin McCall. "There's just so many beautiful and gorgeous things there that attract your eye and your imagination."

McCall captured a lot of the images that ended up in the video during the month or so that Kairaba spent in Senegal last winter. Having recorded their debut studio album in October, they took it on tour to Africa. When they weren't performing, they were living the sounds constantly in a rented hotel on the beach in Mbour, with bandleader Diali Cissokho and his griot family of professional musicians.

"One thing I want you to know, my band is not just a band. It's a family," explains Cissokho, the band's kora player and vocal frontman who emigrated to North Carolina from Senegal in 2009. The CD release party for Resonance, this Saturday at the Cat's Cradle, celebrates a milestone for the one-year-old band, a precocious West African presence on North Carolina's music scene. "These guys love me a lot. [Resonance] is not my first CD, but it's my first CD in the U.S. with these musicians, and I'm so excited about that. I never imagined I would find a band like this."

Cissokho founded Kairaba with four local musicians—McCall, Will Ridenour, Jonathan Henderson and John Westmoreland—as a loose but passionate experiment in January 2011. Pretty soon, it took off like a teenager on growth hormones, honing in on a sound that fuses traditional Manding and Wolof griot songs with North American influences and personal styles. The members agree that an extraordinary if unlikely sense of kinship galvanizes their sound.

"The communication aspect of the band is really, really precious to us. I mean to have a family, you gotta have some good communication," echoes McCall.

Ridenour shares similar sentiments: "We try to really be intentional about the way we live this project together. We're constantly bouncing things off each other, and trying to not just have a band, but a family too."

They treated the trip to Senegal much like they had treated the recording of their album—family-style, living communally for five days in Scott Solter's Monroe, N.C., Baucom Road studio.

"It felt like we were in his home almost," recalls Ridenour. "We slept there, we ate there, and recorded."

A series of guests during the sessions affirmed the familial aspect. Diali's wife, vocalist Hilary Stewart Cissokho, joined saxophonist Jim Henderson, father of bassist Jonathan. McCall says those collaborators helped such a new band stretch their ideas that much more ably: "Of course, there were some stressful times, but it was a healthy stress, figuring out how we're going to do this or that, or what sounds best."

To approximate the broad sound of the album live, they've invited a full horn section and a cadre of local percussionists to sit in, including Beverly Botsford, Atiba Rorie and Robert Cantrell. Expect some surprises as well; at The Pinhook in February, Cissokho played kora and defied bodily harm while throwing himself repeatedly onto a pile of broken glass. He says it's a form of showmanship he developed as a kid in Senegal.

"In my mind, I'm just thinking like, let me try to do something to make people crazy, to make people think, 'Oh! Diali's crazy,'" Cissokho says.

On Saturday, Kairaba will play a short set first, followed by Midtown D - Independent Weekly

"Mosiac Fest Review"

Diali Cissokho’s five-piece Senegalese griot-rock fusion group's story is told as much through the 21-string kora as it is the electric guitar, and their West Africa-meets-Piedmont vibe sounds as ageless as it does progressive. - Yes! Weekly

"World Beat Music Fest"

Senegalese kora player Diali Cissokho performs with Kairaba!, a percussive Carrboro five-piece that sticks closer to the West African griot tradition from which he descends. Jubilant melodies and dance-friendly rhythms assure the fledgling group's performance will be the night's most infectious. - The Independent Weekly

"Introducing: Kairaba"

Senegalese musician Diali Cissokho hails from an impressive lineage of griot musicians that dates back to the 14th century. His mother and father both descended from generations of griots—a traditional role in West African villages that perpetuated the area's culture and history through a combination of singing and storytelling. Although he moved to the United States just over a year ago, Cissokho continues the familial and cultural tradition stateside through performances on the kora, a 21-string instrument made of gourd and cow skin that looks, sounds and plays somewhat like a mix of harp and guitar.

Cissokho, who has been playing the kora since he was 6, jokes that the instrument is his second wife. "It is a very spiritual experience," he says. "You can almost hear the years of tradition being passed from our ancestors—their stories, their experiences, their wisdom."

Though Cissokho has collaborated with worldly Greensboro funk unit The Brand New Life and frequently performs solo, Kairaba!—a name that represents peace and love—teams him with a quartet of likeminded, globally influenced Triangle musicians he met through his wife and other mutual friends. Together, the five-piece brings authentic West African traditions in music and storytelling (with both English and the Mandingo and Wolof dialects) through a framework of polyrhythmic percussion and cascading kora notes. Donations/ 7 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
- The Independent Weekly

"Diali Cissokho's Move From Senegal to Pittsboro Sprouted the Music of Kairaba"

In 2009, when Senegalese kora player and griot singer Diali Keba Cissokho married Hilary Stewart, a Pittsboro native, the two had a big decision to make: stay in his hometown of Mbour, Senegal, or build a life together near her family in North Carolina? Cissokho—already a well-known bandleader and session musician in Senegal—went to his family of professional musicians for advice.

“My family said, ‘Diali, you know what? Music is music. Life is life. But wife is wife,’” Cissokho recalls. “They told me, ‘You have to go help your wife.’”

Leaving behind family and musical ties in Senegal wasn’t easy, but Cissokho made the move to Pittsboro. Now his new extended family structure includes not only his American in-laws but some North Carolina musicians with whom he’s formed an equally tight-knit group—socially as well as musically.

Kairaba—their experimental kora-and-guitar-driven West African dance band—ignited like a match on dry tinder when Cissokho first got together with John Westmoreland, Will Ridenour, Austin McCall and Jonathan Henderson this past January. Kairaba made its public debut at the Nightlight in February, followed by a tent-shaking performance at Shakori Hills in April. Since then, cognoscenti have reveled in a series of free concerts at Talulla’s. Word of mouth began to snowball earlier this month when Kairaba opened for Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré at Local 506, introducing the band to a packed house of new fans. Its next show, at the Haw River Ballroom on Wednesday, Sept. 14, is a fundraiser to benefit African women farmers.

“It’s a big deal for me, because people need to know Diali. Here, people don’t know Diali. In Senegal, people know Diali a lot,” said Cissokho after the Local 506 set. Back home, he’s worked with popular acts such as Souleymane Faye and Carlou D, as well as his own bands.

“We’re meeting a lot of people who are just seeing us for the first time, who are surprised we exist,” added Ridenour, Kairaba’s djembe and conga player.

But no one was more surprised to find Kairaba here than Cissokho himself.

“Finding these guys was a very big surprise. I’m serious, big surprise. They are all great musicians. Will has a good, crazy brain. Uncle, he can hear! This is a musician,” says Cissokho. His reference to Ridenour as “Uncle” is a token of respect; Ridenour’s African family name, which he received while studying music in Mali, is the same as that of Cissokho’s mother.

“Will told me his African name, so I say, maybe he is my family! I don’t know, because griot families are like that,” Cissokho says. The thought brings smiles, but there’s a serious sentiment behind it. “I’m so happy to have these guys. They really welcomed me. We treat each other like family.”

The band’s name comes from a Manding word for “peace and love.” And while Cissokho may have uprooted his old life in Senegal for his new love, an even older love—for his kora—remains a constant in his life and central to his identity as a griot.

“When I pick up my kora, my kora can tell me who I am. Before I met Hilary, I met my kora. I used to tell Hilary, my kora is my first wife,” Cissokho says.

The art of playing kora in West Africa is passed down through families. But to outsiders, the long-necked harp-lute with a large gourd resonator remains deliberately shrouded in an aura of mystery.

“If I tell you, ‘I’m going to tell you the kora’s secrets,’ I’m a liar. I’m not going to tell you that,” Cissokho says. “The kora has so many things inside. If you have a million years, I can teach you the kora; but don’t think that Diali is going to tell you what’s inside the kora. Never. It’s because I know where this comes from. I know what kora is.”

Nevertheless, even back in Senegal, Cissokho—a hip-hop fan—was known for putting his own spin on traditional griot music. One such departure, according to Bouna Ndiaye, host of the syndicated WNCU-FM, 90.7, program Bonjour Africa, is Kairaba’s blending of the languages and musical styles of Senegal’s Wolof and Manding cultures. In addition, Cissokho plays the kora standing up, which is almost unheard of, while belting out his charismatic, smoky lead vocals. But standing to play isn’t even Cissokho’s most unconventional stance; with Hendrix-like virtuosity, he sometimes plays the kora while lying down, or he holds it over his head, keeping the instrument steady with his teeth.

“Kairaba has added a rock flavor to the Senegalese music, which makes it very accessible to the young audience in the Triangle. This is a very good thing,” says Ndiaye.

Another element in that mix is Berklee-trained, Pittsboro-based electric guitarist John Westmoreland. He had zero experience with African guitar before Kairaba, but once Cissokho gave him some CDs to listen to, he picked up the patterns intuitively.

“John and I used to hang out a lot because John and my wife [go way back]. I gave him a lot of different styles; he’s so good, he got everything,” Cissok - The Independent Weekly

"Kairaba! at Tallula's"

The sensation I am recommending to everyone these days is Kairaba, a newly formed African band from the 'boros--Pittsboro, Carrboro, and Mbouror, Senegal. Diali Keba Cissokho is the griot to watch on the local music scene, having assembled a soulful trailblazer in Kairaba.

Kora, vocal, electric guitar, bass, drumset, djembe, dun dun and talking drum form the basis of this experimental sextet, whose members include Diali's nephew Sidya Cissokho, Midtown Dickens' Jonathan Henderson, jazz guitarist John Westmoreland, and longtime students of African rhythm Austin McCall and Will Ridenour.

The band name means "peace and love," a powerful, one-word concept in Manding. Will dissected it grammatically for me Thursday night:
Kaira = peace
-ba = a suffix meaning "big, great," therefore,
Kairaba = the big peace, or "peace to every living thing on earth."

The no-cover show was Kairaba's second at Talulla's, an event slated to repeat itself, for the time being, every other Thursday at 10 pm.
- Onda Carolina

"West African Sounds Fill the Air"

Bynum, NC - Grab your kids, family, friends and neighbors for a night filled with the infectious West African sounds of "Kairaba!" Friday night at the Bynum General Store starting at 7 pm. Kairaba! is composed of Senegalese griot
musician Diali Keba Cissokho, with North Carolinians John Westmoreland, Jonathan Henderson, Austin McCall and Will Ridenour.

The band formed after Diali moved to North Carolina and began to look for musicians who shared his love and passion for creating music based on Manding tradition, flavored with local and personal styles. The outcome of this collaboration is an infectious sound reminiscent of West African dance bands full of unison melody, adventurous improvisation, fiery solos and polyrhythmic frameworks. With lyrics in Manding, Wolof, and English, Kairaba! illuminates its listeners with stories of ancient and modern West Africa and how they relate to today's universal experiences and emotions felt by everyone, regardless of origin. You don’t want to miss this show!

Many thanks to "Bethesda Bluegrass" for their amazing performance last week. We also want to thank our corporate sponsors for helping us make the music series possible. Please visit Hope Crossing Animal Hospital, Allen & Sons BBQ and Auto Pro to say thanks.

Remember that all the shows are free but we pass a hat! Next week, we welcome the foot-stomping music of *Spirit Family Reunion*. Check us out on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also visit bynumfrontporch.org and see the rest of the bands playing this season.

- Chatham Journal

"Shakori Hills Recommendations"

Diali Cissokho and Kairaba [is] my strongest recommendation for a must-see new band on the rise. Led by Pittsboro-resident Cissokho, a Jimi Hendrix of the kora, with his nephew talking drummer Sidya Cissokho, plus an American-style backing band of drumset, congas, bass and electric guitar. The West African harp-lute may be dreamy and poetic solo, but Cissokho uses it to stoke a bluelight basement party in Kairaba, a word which means "love and peace" in Manding. Diali's natural charisma as a vocal performer may come from his centuries-old griot heritage, but he will also put you in mind of Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and other griots of New World soul. - Onda Carolina


- Resonance (2012)

- The Great Peace (2014)

- The Great Peace Remixed (Released on 7" vinyl) (2015)



Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba features Senegalese griot Diali Keba Cissokhoa vocalist, percussionist, dancer, and master of the kora (a 21-string African harp). Diali hails from a famed lineage of musicians and storytellers traceable to the 14th century in his native West Africa. The band is rounded out by four outstanding North Carolina-raised musicians, each bringing their own musical influences to bear.

Tradition meets modernity in this band; African music embraces its American offspring, jazz and blues, and the result is a fresh and exhilarating musical experience. Irresistible dance grooves, captivating performances, fiery percussion, and super-tight arrangements communicate unforgettable joy and passionand bring audiences into the great love and harmony that the bands name signifies.

Kaira Ba's distinctive sound is reminiscent of the great West African dance bands - bursting with unison melody, adventurous improvisation, fiery solos and polyrhythmic frameworks.

With lyrics in Manding, Wolof, and English, Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba immerses the audience in stories of ancient and modern West Africa, parables that bring into focus the need for cooperation and interdependence among all people of the world.


Diali Keba Cissokho (vocals and kora) is a renowned kora player and percussionist from the Casamance region of Senegal. Diali moved to the United States after years of performing and teaching in Senegal and in Europe. Born into a rich ancestry of Manding griots (the musician caste), Diali has been playing traditional West African music for as long as he can remember. Dialis greatest love is the kora, the 21-stringed African harp-lute that is at the heart and soul of much West African music, while he is also a passionate singer, percussionist and dancer. Crossing cultural boundaries with a wide range of sounds, he brings a unique personal style to this respected traditional art form. Diali finds joy in playing music from the heart as he shares his own love for life, music, and peace with each audience.

John Westmoreland (guitar) grew up in Pittsboro, NC playing blues and rock in various groups. In his late teens he began playingjazz and eventually studied jazz performance as well as classical composition at Berklee College of Music. In 2007 he attended a master class and performed withlegendary jazz guitarist Jim Hall.John also teaches private lessons and regularly performs as a solo jazz guitarist and as an improvisational accompanist toyoga classes. He strongly believes in the healing powers of music.

Jonathan Henderson (bass) is a multi-instrumentalist raised in Durham, NC. He grew up on jazz and blues in a household where instruments and music were a constant. Jonathan received degrees in Sociology and Music at Guilford College and has since studied with great teachers in North Carolina as well as others in travels to the San Francisco Bay Area and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Jonathan believes that music can elucidate the collective power of people struggling for a just world.He tries always to play it in that spirit.

Austin McCall (drum set) grew up in Saxapahaw N.C. listening to and playing blues, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, and West African style musics. He has studied various styles of drum set and percussion with the influential teachings of Frank Worrell, Mama Kone, and the World. His love for music has brought him to some of the most intense places he's ever been spiritually and physically.

Will Ridenour (percussion) is a musician from Greensboro NC, specializing in drumming traditions from throughout the world as well as the kora. Will has performed in 40 US states and 25 countries worldwide, and studied for over 12 years with master teachers such as Madou Dembele, Michael Spiro and Dialy Mady Cissoko in the US, Europe, Mali and Senegal. He firmly believes in the power of music to change the world and aims to prove it with each note.


About the Griot Tradition: In Mande society the griot, or jeli, served as a historian, advisor, praise singer, and storyteller. These musicians served as walking libraries, preserving and sharing the stories and traditions of their culture through song. This inherited tradition, with its deep connections to spiritual, social, and political powers, has been passed down through generations since the 14th century. Dialis mother, MoussuKeba Diebate, and his father, Ibrahima Cissokho, both hailed from long and celebrated lines of griots. Historically, each village had their own griot who told tales of births, deaths, marriages, battles, hunts, affairs, and other important events and celebrations.