From Kora to Guitar
June 8, 2024 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Translating Great African Composers. "In this mesmerising performance and talk, Derek Gripper explains how he painstakingly translated the works of the great Toumani Diabate from the 21-string kora, onto six string guitar. He gives context to the virtuosity of Diabate himself, and an insight into how African music traditions are passed down. In the process of this translation, Derek is also capturing these African masterpieces onto guitar scores, providing a new way for the works of great African composers to be preserved and interpreted by musicians worldwide."

Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté - Jarabi

Toumani Diabete - bio.

Derek Gripper on NPR's Tiny Desk. "Earlier this year, Gripper finally made it to Mali, where his efforts received the blessing of Toumani Diabate himself; the two even jammed together."
posted by storybored (5 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Props for a local boy. Derek has carved a well earned niche in the classical guitar world and deserves more attention. South African musicians don't get enough attention even in SA. Derek is part of a small community of progressive musicians that I've been part of, yet he has moved on and outward and steadily built his international reputation. You wouldn't know this bumping into him in the street in his home town.
posted by BrStekker at 11:17 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

Other innovative South African guitarists worth enthusiastic attention:

Guy Buttery performing Verbosity (youtube).

Guy grew up in Kwazulu Natal (KZN) and is influenced by Zulu Maskandi music. And he also plays Sitar (Durban in KZN is home to a large South Indian diaspora).

Guy and Derek perform together (youtube)

Madala Kunene, now Dr Madala Kunene is a unique exponent of Masakanda guitar. Live in Cape Town. (youtube).
posted by BrStekker at 11:46 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]

So delightful. Thanks for posting!
posted by dmh at 9:54 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

After watching Derek’s tiny desk concert, I was delighted to find that he gave lessons over zoom, both group lessons and individual ones. I’ve been taking with him once a month for the last five years (!) and it has totally transformed my playing. And I don’t only mean the kora music on guitar that I’m working on. The system he uses for kora of adjusting the tuning and the capo until the tune is much more playable works for other styles as well I’m working on samba tunes, afro-peruvian tunes, steve lacy tunes, all sorts of styles using that technique to make solo transcriptions and arrangements. I posted to mefi music how I was working on one of his transcriptions when I was almost hit by lightning.

All of Derek’s music is worth checking out, but his new project with Ballaké Sissoko is especially extraordinary. They played together in NYC recently, and was totally blown away that they know each other’s repertoire to the point that they don’t have a set list and just react to each other for an hour and a half, effortlessly following each other’s lead.
posted by umbú at 5:40 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this. I was lucky to listen to Toumani Diabate (and his son) perform at Womadelaide some years ago. It was mind blowing to listen to live (I had previously only heard his recordings).

I moved back to the States a few years ago. I have been waiting for him to tour so that I could go watch him again.
posted by thaths at 4:45 PM on June 13

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