[21 August 2006]
Prince Diabaté is called “the Jimi Hendrix of the kora,” but that’s just lazy shorthand for saying that he’s a skilled and exciting performer. On Djerelon, no pyrotechnics were used to create the disc’s lively and lovely Guinean music. Mostly acoustic and semi-traditional, electric guitar and bass are only a small part of a mix that includes balafon (better known to most as marimba), a lot of hand drums, both Western and African flutes, the single-stringed Fulani violin, a thumb piano called the gongoman, both male and female backing vocals, and, leading it all, Prince Diabaté with his mellifluous kora playing and plaintive voice. Like much of the best West African music, Djerelon is upbeat, but with a blue-toned soul, as minor-keyed phrasings snake their way through the predominantly happy melodies. Although its distribution is limited, Prince Diabaté‘s latest CD (his first in five years) is well worth hunting down.