Music for the Young


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I took the chance…. taking my 16-year old to the concert. Last Thursday at the French Institute Alliance Francaise, a world music duo, Ballaké Sissoko a Malian griot playing a kora harp-lute – and French cellist Vincent Segal were performing.

I was partly saved by Ballaké Sissoko’s name, and was informed right away that this first name and surname are regulars in soccer teams. That helped! Sure enough, we learned later from Vincent Segal, in his  broken English, that Sissoko’s son –a 17 year old as well- was on the junior team of the PSG, Paris Saint Germain  of course!. (That was effectively checked as soon as the Iphone could be connected to the Internet.) Still cello and flute did not seem like an easy combination for a teenager.

An official from the World Music Institute co-presenter of the concert introduced the two musicians as they sat on the stage. It took us a few minutes to apprehend Sissoko’s instrument – a harp with bulky round body and a long and thin neck. I regretted not having more informations on this exotic instrument from the musician himself. Wikipedia came handy: “ A kora is a harp built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck.”

If Vincent Segal has been trained as a classical cellist, Sissoko has worked with Blues musicians like Taj Mahal and of course West African kora players.

They started playing music, chamber music as announced but with multiple influences, Arabic, African, western… in other words, world music. It was very peaceful and serene and very beautiful. And yes, my teenager was transported as I was as was the public in this packed auditorium at the Florence Gould Hall. It was different, “elevatingly” different, and good for the soul.

I discovered that my son had grown up to become this inspired young man open to a world music experience, and I discovered Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal. It was a full evening.

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