Toumani Diabaté performed on the eve of World AIDS Day | music | Hindustan Times
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Toumani Diabaté performed on the eve of World AIDS Day

Grammy winner, Toumani Diabaté performs inspite of health issues, adds that Mali is culturally similar to India. Performing at Mahalaxmi on the eve of World AIDS Day, the double Grammy concert also featured Vishwa-mohan Bhatt and his son Salil.

music Updated: Dec 02, 2011 13:41 IST
Megha Mahindru
Toumani-Diabat
Toumani-Diabat

Since October this year, Grammy winner Toumani Diabaté has been busy touring. “It’s been a non-stop routine,” says the Malian kora (a mix of a harp and lute) player, who arrived in Mumbai from Paris, on a wheelchair. “I’ve performed everyday for over 40 days, and sometimes I do get tired,” says the 46-year-old, who was seen limping onstage.



“I’ve been looking forward to perform here. I didn’t want to postpone my concert since the idea was to spread awareness on AIDS, and what better day than this.”



Performing at Mahalaxmi on the eve of World AIDS Day, the double Grammy concert also featured Vishwa-mohan Bhatt and his son Salil. However, the Mali-Indian jugalbandhi (fusion) resulted in a mish-mash melody with the inventive Mohan Veena overpowering the sound of Toumani’s 21-stringed instrument. What made matters worse was the careless pronunciation of the emcee addressing him as ‘Tounami’ and later on even ‘Tsunami’.



However, nothing seemed to dampen Toumani’s spirits. “I’ve heard of Mumbai since I was a child. I love the people and food. India and Mali are culturally rich places and very similar to each other,” says Toumani, who sported a traditional Mandinka attire called the boubou.



Talking about his life in Mali, he says, “Our people love Indian movies and songs. In fact, we catch a Bollywood movie every Sunday. I know of Amitabh Bachchan and love the film, Disco Dancer (1982).”



Another similarity is Mali’s tradition of court musicians. Toumani hails from an age-old family of kora players. “Kora is part of our history as Griot people. In Mali, each ethnicity has its own musicians. I belong to the 71st generation of Griot kora players. It’s an oral tradition that we pass from father to son, through generations. Our ancestors used to play songs for the king, whether he won a battle, made peace or got married,” says Toumani, whose son too has carried forward the tradition: “He plays the kora for a hip-hop band.”



Toumani’s performance comes a day after Mali’s newest voice, Vieux Farka Toure, son of Ali Farka Toure, with whom Toumani collaborated for In The Heart Of The Moon that won them a Grammy in 2006. “Vieux is like my son. When Ali died, he asked me to take care of Vieux, and he is now the new talent from West Africa. It’s a coincidence that we two are playing back to back. In fact, my brother too was playing with Vieux. It’s good to know Malian musicians have an audience here.”