Two Sissokos? No need to try arithmetic, mental calculations, addition or multiplication: the Sissokos form a whole, one piece, a sum of knowledge, practice, tradition, innovation, creativity rooted in a dynastic heritage.

Ballake Sissoko & Baba Sissoko

It is a line of griots from Mali who led to the meeting of these two cousins. Cousins in family, cousins in music, cousins in the desire to take their instruments to the borders of the musical encounters. Encounters which were numerous for both until today when the idea of being face to face finally prevailed over the many other projects. This album is an opportunity to relive instruments and dialogues as in their youth, in the early 80s when they were members of the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali, each taking over the place of his own father. Now, they play again together, in the most natural way, a brotherly encounter, fostering a music of peace that lets the warm winds of West Africa blow to the rest of the world.

Ballaké with his kora, and Baba with his percussion, ngoni and voice, has each traveled the planet with a multitude of other musicians. To draw up the list would be to draw up the alphabet of the Gotha of so-called world music and a certain jazz evolving in parallel. And if we abandoned this annoying habit of name dropping to get back to basics? At the very essence of this music from the depths of time to the present day through listening, exchange, and dialogue. No artifice, no trend, no jargon, no hidden agenda. But with the pure simplicity of strings, flesh and voices that sound to say what only the music of men can say whose mission, much more than a source of living, is to express the vibrations of our world musically. And the world itself resonates, lights up, where this music definitely helps us to survive.

Through shimmering pulsations, whirling beats, impulse and thrust, melodic breathings to rhythmic gasps, delicate suggestions to assertive propositions, Baba and Ballaké take us by the ear as we take them by the hand. We follow them with soft steps to the smooth track and wonderful trail. We move silently to the path of the two Sissokos, we visit the places of their memories, we bow to the past so subtly present in this music full of future. We move between the crystalline strings and the tamani discourse, between the lyrical flights of song and the soothing virtues of the kora. We meet, in passing, two discreet brothers, who offer a reverent contribution. At no time does one leave the path that meanders and whispers, hums, muses as it explores, both a journey and a musical experience.

And without ceasing, without astonishment, we say that Ballaké and Baba invited us to a meeting that is expected, foreseen, inevitable, unavoidable because obvious. As is a skillful music in the image of an ancient language that all men feel deep within themselves.

Étienne Bours  + NMR (photo: press)