Who the hell knew about THIS guy, and why didn't I know about him??!!
A friend & I stumbled into the tiny Kuumbwa tonight just because I had an itch for a show, my summer vacation is almost over and the weather was perfect for a drive, so I hit the road up into the beautiful coastal mountains, went through La Honda & the redwood trees past Keasy's old place on to the Pacific, cruised down the coast to Santa Cruz and hooked up with my friend for dinner.
I had no idea who Toumani Diabaté is, never heard of him, but the little review on the venue web site of this guy from the African nation of Mali sounded good enough for a Monday night in Santa Cruz and my lovely friend was willing, so off we went.
The energy in the room for the late show was palpable, with the full crowd of uber-cool hipsters psyched to see this guy.
I'm not normally a big fan of African styles of music, but THIS guy, oh man! He played a thing called a Kora; a type of small harp/lute type deal, and I swear he was a mix of John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Zakir Hussain and Jerry Garcia on that thing, and he had the crowd dancing. His playing was the voice of angels. Damn creative, ripping angels!
He had a band with a drummer, bass & guitar, and a trumpet player and some others sat in at times, but virtually no vocals.
The music was based on African grooves but this was it's own music, delicate and articulate but jumping at the same time, and while the band and the others were all excellent Diabaté just soared above it all.
What an amazing player.
The ONLY thing I'm bummed about is that he has just finished a three-night stand at Yoshi's Oakland yesterday. Groups playing the Kuumbwa on a Monday are often playing there just before or just after a run at one of the larger Yoshi's clubs. About a half hour into the set tonight I was already planning on hitting more of this, but alas, I discover it too late for more. For now.
He's playing tomorrow somewhere in Phoenix, and if you're in that area tomorrow night you should find out where he's playing and GO TO THE SHOW!
Apparently this guy has been around a long time. Where the hell have I been?
It’s frustrating and great at the same time that as an aging know-it-all I can continue to discover players I've never heard of that blow my mind, so I say…
Better late than never. Toumani Diabaté.
GREAT show tonight!
He has a nice album out with Taj Mahal from several years ago that you might enjoy called Kulanjan. They did a great tour together.
While you're at it- if you don't know about another guy from Mali who frequently tours the US and puts on a killer live show: Habib Koite & Bamada -you should
I saw Toumani Diabaté at Yoshi's last year. He played a duo with Bela Fleck for 1 hour 15 minutes of fabulous music. yeah, this guy is worth many a listen. better late than never for sure. never too late to discover good music.