For the second time, Granada hosted the Hay Festival last week which I was looking forward to. Unfortunately this year, I missed the literary events but made sure to attend the percussion workshop presented by rising African star Seckou Keita himself . The session took place on sunday morning in the Casa Molino Angel Ganivet in Granada. The weather was splendid and the workshop took place outside in the garden. To my great surprise, there were very few people. Granada is a city with lots of musicians and I had thought we would be at least 50 people but we were in total 6 adults and 3 adorable little kids. The ambiance was cool and relax, at one point, someone suggested we should start. I said : oh...pero no vamos a esperar a Seckou Keita? aren't we going to wait for Seckou Keita ? Everybody laughed. You see, before coming, I checked on Internet about Seckou and his music, because I didn't know him before. Naturally, everybody laughed because Seckou was already there seated and I didn't recognize him! He laughed too and believe me, he's such a cool guy and an excellent teacher, he'd made anyone love percussion....
We each had a drum and he taught us the three basic tones, including the slap. I remember that one because I found the name funny. So we did lots of poum poum poum tam pam poum slap poum poum slap....Here below is Seckou's Gambian brother, Surahata Susso who plays percussion. Seckou was born in Senegal in the Casamance region and now lives in UK where his brother joined him to form the band Seckou Keita SKQ.
It was a real pleasure to see both brothers playing and laughing nearly all the time
We asked Seckou if he ever got pain in his hands because after one hour, we all had painful fingers !Ok, I'm not an expert yet and I doubt I'll be one day but as you can see from the big smile on my face, I greatly enjoyed it
and I must say the site was ideally chosen
Later on, at 8pm, our friends Ellie and Sasha joined us at theater Isabel la Catolica to attend a double concert of Seckou and Toumani Diabate. Here below is Seckou playing the kora. I'm not too sure, but I think the singer is his wife.
The band performed a number of themes from their new released album The Silimbo Passage. Seckou plays the kora in the traditional Mandink (Western African) way but also experiments new tunings and adds Arabic and flamenco flavours to his music. He is accompanied by Egyptian violonist Samy Bishai and Italian bassist Davide Mantovani.
Kora master Toumani Diabate (see post below) took up the second part of the concert. He first performed two themes solo. It was a moment of pure grace and beauty, it nearly made me cry....When the singer appeared on stage in his magnificent attire, the audience cheered with joy. I was completely mesmerized by his graceful steps, the way he addressed the musicians and the audience, just like a traditional griot (musician-oral historian in West Africa) but above all by his incredible rich deep voice. I find many similarities between traditional Mandink music and Malagasy music.
During the intermission, I asked Seckou to kindly sign the CD I just bought of his new album. When I told him I had Malagasy origins, he exclaimed : no way ! why didn't you say it before..you know, we're going to work with some Malagasy musicians who play the vali... The Vali is a typical Malagasy string instrument which renders a heavenly sound just like the kora.
Toumani, who was born in caste of hereditary griots spoke a few words in French about the Mandink culture which he aims to preserve through his music. I was quite moved by his words and I all the more admired his genuine simplicity and his profound love for his culture.Thank you so much Messieurs Toumani and Seckou for giving us so much joy and please come back to Granada soon !
As a post about music is a bit sad without sound, I leave you with a video of Seckou playing the djembé and another short video of Toumani explaining the basics of the kora. He speaks in French but there are subtitles in English