The kora is officially my new favorite instrument. For those of you who don’t know what it is, you should seriously check it out. It’s basically a 21-string bridge-harp that is used extensively in West Africa, and hasn’t really found its way into American contemporary music. The kora sounds very similar to a harp, although when played traditionally, it somewhat closely resembles a delta blues guitar. Famed kora musician Ballaké Sissoko uses the instrument extensively in his album, At Peace, and I felt some background information was necessary in order to properly introduce this wonderful instrument.
Throughout the album—his first since 2011’s Humbling Tides—Sissoko is accompanied by French cellist Vincent Segal, who complements Sissoko’s kora marvelously. The record opens with “Maimouna,” a Sissoko solo that places emphasis on the gentle and soothing qualities of the kora. The lyric-less song (the entire album is instrumental) can effortlessly lull one to sleep, and whisks you away to the peaceful world envisioned by Sissoko. His album’s title really is appropriate here, as that is exactly how you feel: at peace.
In “Kabou,” Sissoko plays along with Segal, whose cello accompaniment certainly provides a fair bit of atmosphere in the piece. Naturally, the bulk of the attention is still placed on the kora, which shines through yet again. Luiz Gonzaga’s “Asa Branca” is one of the few tracks in the album not composed by Sissoko, and while stylistically the difference is evident, the tranquil mood and theme of the song remain the same.
If you’re in need of some relaxation, I highly recommend giving At Peace a try. This is a beautiful record that contrasts significantly with the majority of music currently being produced in the industry. I’ll have to end things here, as my sleepy eyes really are starting to flutter…
In A Word: Pacifying