Zal Sissokho is a griot, continuing the grand oral traditions of his Mandinka people of Senegal in Montreal where he settled in 1999. His long clan lineage and deep improvisation skills are on full display when he plays the 21-string kora and sings in Malinke and Wolof as a solo performer and collaborator with numerous bands.
Ever since he heard flamenco performed live in Seville, Sissokho dreamt of combining Andalusian music and the Mandinka culture of his native West Africa. Kora Flamenca – a musical collaboration with composer and virtuosa flamenco guitarist Caroline Planté – is the result. The album’s ensemble also includes percussionist Miguel Medina, first-call Montreal oudist Mohamed Masmoudi and bassist Jean Félix Mailloux. Sissokho explains, “I sought to expand the limits of my instrument, the kora, as far as possible. Inspired by soaring improvisational flamenco riffs, I tried to create a hybrid style… [To me] musical inspiration begins with respect for the instrument’s tradition, history and sounds. Then… I sought to… push my collaborators to create music in which composition, technical prowess and improvisation unite…”
Musically and stylistically, kora and flamenco guitar are worlds apart. Linked by their common plucked string heritage however, Sissokho and Planté find ample common musical ground on which to hang flights of melodic fancy. Characterized by fast tempi, pop-forward arrangements, brief modal improvisations and Sissokho’s vocals, this set of ten concise songs makes a convincing case for combining kora and flamenco