Occasionally I review an album that reminds me of a Monty Python classic — And Now for Something Completely Different. In the past that has included everything from jazz bassoon to a harmonica and tuba duet. The latest example would have to be Sira, a new release on the ObliqSound label.
It was recorded in Senegal, and combines the talents of German trumpeter Volker Goetze with those of Senegalese musician Ablaye Cissoko, who not only plays an African stringed instrument called the kora (similar to a lute) but also adds vocals that reflect his heritage as a griot, or storyteller. But wait, there’s more — a portion of the proceeds from the album go to the African charitable organization Tostan.
The album, which derives its title from Cissoko’s youngest daughter’s name and literally translates as Mermaid, consists of ten tracks. Seven are originals composed by the artists and the remaining three are traditional tunes arranged by Cissoko. All pieces are performed entirely by the two musicians – no accompaniment – and listening to them is a fascinating entry into a world both exotic and mysterious.
Each of the performers has moments when he dominates, but for the most part the strength of the music is in the skillful blending of the two instrumentalists. Although Cissoko’s vocalizing certainly rings with authenticity and he does have a pleasing voice, it might not be to every listener’s taste.
A good example of a track that features his singing front and center is “Faro.” For a piece more representative of the twosome’s instrumental stylings, I’d recommend “Gorgorlou.” Another good listen is “Bamaya,” which showcases Goetze’s trumpet play on a song that was probably my favorite here.
Sira is probably not for everyone, but if you want to expand your musical horizons and explore diverse sounds from around the world, give it a listen. It’s certainly something a little different.