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Ballaké Sissoko & Derek Gripper Announce Their Collaborative Album With First Single “Ninkoy”

Ballaké Sissoko & Derek Gripper Announce Their Collaborative Album With First Single “Ninkoy”

A meeting between instruments, not traditions. Most certainly, the dialogue between Ballaké Sissoko’s Kora and Derek Gripper’s guitar is a summit between two master musicians who are operating with control and freedom at the highest peaks of their art. There are two bulls in the pen. And it is equally certain that these maestros emerge from quite different and distant musical worlds – Sissoko’s kora tradition and lineage traverse the once powerful empire known as Kaabu: located in Gambia, southern Senegal, and Guinea Bissau. Gripper’s stems from the European classical guitar. 

The two men do not share a spoken language, but if it is true that music speaks universally, then they were already involved in profound dialogue long before they met for the series of London concerts which yielded this recording session – a session which matches deep communion with sparkling improvisation, which pushes a living tradition into brand new sonic spaces, and opens a live and direct channel of communication between kora and guitar. In the complex web of themes and variations spun by Sissoko’s twenty-two strings and Gripper’s six, a new African string theory is elaborated.

“Musically we tested each other,” says Sissoko, explaining that the most magical aspect of their encounters are spontaneous. “We have the mastery of our instruments, the technique and a good ear. Derek is very curious, that’s very important.” “He’s just such a good listener,” says Gripper about Sissoko. “It’s not what he plays, it’s how he plays it. He’s an amazing interpreter, the prime master of timbre.”

The first single of the album Ninkoy begins the rollout of the full album which will be available on all streaming platforms, on May 10th as a joint release between Platoon and Matsuli Music 

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Recorded the day after their first meeting together at a celebration of fifty years of kora at London‘s School of Oriental and African Studies, Ninkoy is a freestyle exploration of the resonances of the harp repertoire of the Manding empire of West Africa. The bubbling textures of harp strings combine with the guitar to create a melodically transparent reading of imagined kora pieces which manage to sound both ancient and contemporary. The mood is lifting, lilting…urgent yet grounded, perfect for summer evenings, winter recovery or celebratory joy.


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