A little drum session with Mr Seckou Keita in Granada

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.
At the end of Toumani's concert, Seckou just jumped on the stage and seized his djembé. Fantastic !
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
Enjoy !


Sara said…
Gorgeous music! That kora is so beautiful.
Patricia said…
I really enjoyed this post. The visuals and the music are fantastic. You really managed to bring this alive. You might wish to see the movie by Thomas McCarthy called "The Visitor", here is a link to a lengthy promo:
David Engel said…
Hi Lala,

Looks like you had a fascinating time. Well reported.
Music is so wonderful! So meaningful.


That's great you get to be a part of the drum session!
And yes, your lovely smile says it all!
What a fun post, my castle! I loved it from beginning to end. As a performer I can attest to the power of the drum. The big, majestic African drum. There's a story about a British man who went to Nigeria to learn to play the bata drums (the ones we use in Cuba mostly) and after several years he managed to master the technique. He went back to Africa and met one of the elders in one of the villages he visited and the old gentleman invited the Brit to play with them. The Brit was enthusiastic about it until he was asked how long he'd been playing for. He said for many years, mor ethan ten, and the elder laughed heartily and asked him: yes, sure you can play them, but can you make them talk? The Brit remained silent. You see, the power of the drum lies also in the conversation it establishes with the singer(s) and the dancer(s). Your photos were magnificent and the ambiance was great. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.
Wonderful post! What a fun opportunity in such a small,congenial group.
Yoli said…
Lala I LOVE this post!!!!!!!!!!!! Toca el tambor mujer!!!!!
dutchbaby said…
You, indeed, looked very happy with that drum. The first music clip takes me back to my days in Berkeley, where drummers gathered every Saturday at the main gathering plaza on campus for an afternoon of spontaneous music.

A great vibrant post!
SE'LAH... said…
Love this post...

beautiful photos of beautiful people and a beautiful time.

Love your blog.
Susana said…
Great post Lala!!! Fantastic stuff!!!!
Christina said…
Oh Lala, I am in tears. You have an idea what love this brings to my heart.
I love you, sweetie. Thank you.
g. said…
How amazing! What a blast!
vicki archer said…
Lala - beat away, you will be brilliant. xv
Anonymous said…
This is a very cool post! I really enjoy discovering different kinds of music.
Relyn said…
OH, such beautiful men. I am dying over those first few pictures. They are just incredible. The music, of course, is too.

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