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Boundary Crossing Ellika and Solo - winners in the Boundary Crossing category

Ellika and Solo (Sweden/Senegal)

Winner in the Boundary Crossing category

Song : Mama Tonkara
Album : Tretakt Takissaba (Proper, UK)

More on BBCi : Album review

The best laid plans often go astray, but sometimes wonderful things happen by complete accident. How many supergroups fail to live up to expectations through a simple lack of chemistry between the participants? It may not be all that rare for two musicians who are complete strangers to spontaneously strike a chord and play together with ease. But jam sessions seldom lead to great records. Ellika & Solo's debut album Tretakt Takissaba proves to be a happy exception.

Swedish fiddler Ellika Frisell first met Senegalese kora player and singer Solo Cissokho in 1998 at a "Senegalese culture society" in Stockholm. Owing to a fortuitous quirk of fate, they were billed as a duo even though they'd never played together. They only met five minutes before they were due to perform, but Solo's intuition told him things were going to work out fine: 'I can see from the way you're holding the violin,' he told an anxious Ellika just before they went onstage, where they found an instant synergy.

Norway resident Solo at least brought his experience of fusing Norwegian music with the griot traditions of his native Casamance region through his work with the project called "From Senegal To Setesdal". His lively percussive style of playing is similar to that of fellow Casamance player Kausu Kouyate, and he comes from a large griot family which includes Baka Beyond's Sekou Keita.

Ellika by contrast had no previous experience of African music, though she has long been a leading light on the Swedish folk music scene. Her playing is steeped in the Bingsjö and Orsa traditions and her musical CV includes stints with Swedish folk radicals Filafolket and Den Fule. A peripatetic career has taken her through several other groups in search of sonic stimulation and her experience of studying South Indian classical music and playing free jazz obviously stood her in good stead when it came to improvising with Solo.

Considering the reflective and even mournful associations both of their chosen instruments have, Tretakt Takissaba is a surprisingly joyful record. It seems to effortlessly express their delight at finding such a natural fusion between two apparently distant roots musics. The ten songs merge traditional Swedish polskas, schottisches and waltzes with ancient griot melodies as well as new compositions by both artists. World music fusions often involve one player timidly tagging behind another, stylistically in their shadow, whereas these two seem to lean towards each other in mutual agreement. And when they start to improvise, something much more than the sum of its parts emerges. Or as Solo puts it: 'A new baby is born.'

Jon Lusk 2002

Read your comments on Ellika and Solo

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