The Seckou Keita SKQ are multi-ethnic quintet centred around Senegalese acclaimed virtuoso Kora (cross between harp & lute) player and lead vocalist, Seckou Keita. He melds traditional African roots music together with elements of jazz, eastern music and even flamenco whilst pushing his instrument to its limits incorporating experimental tunings and rhythms to great effect. The Quintet is made up of Seckou’s Gambian siblings Surahata Susso (percussion), Binta Suso (vocals), Italian David Mantovani (electric/double Bass) and Egyptian Samy Bishai (violin), all extremely talented and prolific in their own right, bringing different styles and flavours to the mix, yet it all gels together effortlessly.
Opening track ‘Blimo’ is indicative of the instinctive group dynamic, it features some sublimely adept Kora work from Secko, wonderful eastern European tinged violin, flamenco style percussion all underpinned by some exquisitely deep bass, Secko takes leads vocals complimented by Binta with some lovely harmonies by the whole group. ‘Blimo’ is noticeably the only song to feature English lyrics “You know, you can’t touch me no more” in reference to the betrayal of a friend according to the linear notes. The albums has a pervading spiritual theme running through out, featuring traditional songs relating stories of folklore alongside odes to lost friends and family, although not conveyed lyrically to most listeners, due the language barrier, it is has an emotional character and depth which is expressed without the need for an interpreter. Although Seckou’s playing is the main focal point thourghout, on ‘Mande-Arab’ Samy’s violin brings some melancholic moments to the fore, backed by Seckou’s tender kora playing before more stylistic changes with a far eastern tinge, Binta Suso takes the lead vocals to great affect with some wonderful harmonising drawing the song to a close. Songs such as ‘Chelima’ with its quiet delicate playing, soaring violin peaks and twisting dramatically darker moments with hints of jazz piano, it again proves the group are adept at verging into experimental territory on a whim. ‘Dingba Don’ features the most vigorous dynamic percussion, highlights an eastern European feel at times with extremely quick and intricate Kora exertions on Seckou part, perhaps the most energized track on the album. It all finishes with ‘Missing You’ a quiet and subdued affair, very smooth and relaxing with a broadly classical feel.
Transcending continents and regional boundaries, incorporating a wide range of vibrant styles and genres whilst retaining the authenticity of its origins, if your thinking of dipping your toe into the sometimes bewildering seemingly impenetrable realm of World Music, you would do well to start with this little gem.