Swedish fiddle and Senegalese kora meet in a unique collaboration. Thought provoking...
Fiona Talkington 2002
Solo Cissokho plays the kora, the long-necked African harp. He comes from a Senegalese family of griots, revered traditional musicians and story-tellers. Ellika Frisell is queen of traditional Swedish fiddle playing. They met four years ago on stage at a Stockholm club and tretakt takissaba is a testament to what's become a hugely successful musical partnership.
The kora and the Swedish fiddle have extremely strong individual voices and I'm very happy with solo albums from either. I love the empty spaces, the solitariness of the Scandinavian fiddle tradition, and its dance music which has bite without any need for percussion. I love the timelessness of the kora, its own very different sense of space, and its delicate, breathtaking ornamental style.
I wasn't convinced at first that Solo's and Ellika's collaboration had really led to what Solo describes as "a new baby". The opening track, a traditional Swedish polska irritated me by the kora filling in (albeit very beautifully!) my beloved "empty spaces"!
The track which did convince me is one of the longest on the album, "Mama Tonkara". It's written by Solo and tells of his visits to his grandmother in Africa (he's been resident in Norway since 1995). Ellika emerges and re-emerges effortlessly throughout, never dominating, but giving the music the depth it needs. There's a real dialogue between the two musicians here, which is heightened in "The violin is waiting for the kora". Each thrives on the other's energy while still having the space to be themselves, and never losing their Swedish or Senegalese identities.
Another highlight is "Bingsjö polskan", a tune from the heartland of Swedish tradition. At under two and a half minutes it's tragically short, but this is where the defining lines of Swedish rhythms and harmonies are blurred and the borders between the two countries are rubbed out.
This is by no means Solo's first foray into African/Scandinavian collaboration. He features in the now classic album From Senegal to Setesdalalbum with Kirsten Bråten Berg. Ellika has yet to make the journey to Senegal, but it's clear from this album that they've each found a musical soul-mate. For the listener it's a thought-provoking yet enchanting journey of discovery.
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