Mamadou Diabate ‘Courage’ (World Village/Harmonia Mundi) 5/5

Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate, who is also known for his participation in the Malian Instrumental Ensemble, won a Grammy with his last solo album ‘Douga’ and this excellent new set repeats the winning formula. A five piece traditional line-up comprises balaphone, ngoni, acoustic bass and djembe/calabash with Diabate himself performing on what is West Africa’s equivalent of the harp, the kora, which has no less than twenty-one strings and offers a meditative and relaxing musical experience. The band ensemble sound is incredibly tight and there is real urgency to proceedings as on the aptly titled ‘Humanity’ which reproduces the hustle bustle of activity in daily human life with due driving beat. For the solo piece ‘Kora journey’ Diabate explores the whole range of the kora’s dynamic sound while ‘La ban djoro’ is a more lilting number. On the immediately captivating ‘Kita Djely’ the quintet are heard in full flow with the balaphone in particular prominent and a wonderful build up of tension during which both balaphone and kora solo. Now in his mid-thirties, Mamdou Diabate is in the prime of his musical life and this album amply illustrates his master craft.

Tim Stenhouse