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Chamber Music Import

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Chamber Music is a collaboration between Ballake Sissoko, who plays the traditional kora, a lute-harp from Mali, and Vincent Segal, the French cellist who plays for the trip-hop band Bumcello. It is also, quite simply, one of the most elegant and beautiful recordings of world music in recent years. At a time when cross-cultural music has tended toward highly-caffeinated electric pop and dance music, Sissoke and Segal remind us that there is room and maybe even a need for a quieter, more refined world music. Both musicians have displayed an aptitude for defying expectations the list of trip-hop cellists is pretty short, after all. And Ballake Sissoko has become a familiar name on the world music scene through his work with American blues legend Taj Mahal and Italian minimalist Ludovico Einaudi, among others. But perhaps the combination of kora and cello works so well because there are no expectations for it. The collaboration grew out of a personal friendship, and at no point was there an attempt to produce a record that would be slick and hip and commercial. Yet it has become one of Europe's most buzzed-about worldmusic recordings in the past year. Chamber Music was recorded in the Moffou Studio, founded by the great Malian singer Salif Keita to provide a world-class environment for musicians wishing to record acoustic, perhaps even authentic,African music. (Keita's own acoustic album, Moffou, was recorded there.) The cello, of course, is not a traditional African instrument. But Chamber Music, in its depth of feeling and variety of moods, is authentically African. The kora may not appear in the duos, trios, or quartets of Beethoven, Schumann, or Brahms; but the obvious musical and personal connection between Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal also marks this as an authentic, if original, type of chamber music.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Stunningly Beautiful Work - A Treat! Jan. 19 2011
By Neal - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This collaboration speaks volumes about how artists can find common ground from separate cultures and the world can benefit. This work draws exclusively from the African compositions but the cello is presented in a way that is both totally consistent with the African melodies yet with its own voice. For example, in Mako Mady the two instruments complement each other in notation and tonal qualities. They and the performers all just seem perfectly matched. Other cuts make for more disparate interaction, but still complementing each other perfectly. And the performers play as though they had been together for years, certainly a tribute to their own musical insights and skills. This may simply be the most appealing "fusion" music undertaking in the last decade, whether in "world" music or elsewhere. One can only hope that these marvelously sensitive artists continue their collaboration.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A World of Beauty and Contemplation. Dec 31 2014
By Danny - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I checked out this album due to high praise on NPR music, and I am extremely glad that I did.
As a fan of African music, and classical music, the pairing of the cello with the traditional African instrument the kora struck me as a potentially great album.

Upon further listening, the duo of cello and kora creates a wonderful soundscape of tones and colors, with Sissoko and Segal playing off of each other, carrying out fascinating musical conversations that are easy to wrap your ear around. The songs on this album transport you to a wonderful quiet world of pondering and beauty.

This album calls to mind other duo albums like Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer or Béla Fleck's "Africa Project," but Chamber Music succeeds in some areas that those albums don't and thats in its approachable simplicity. There's no forays into atonality. No jarring time signature asymmetries. Just plaintive beauty that is charming and easy to delve into for any music lover.

One aspect of this record I enjoy a lot is that it doesn't require you to be a fan of "world music" but simply asks you to be a fan of music period. With the exception of "Regret" which has singing in a foreign language and feels very world music genre based (this is no fault), any other track on the song could fit in a playlist of relaxing study music, or soundtrack a walk through a park on a quiet afternoon.

If you are a fan of classical music, world music, or just contemplative instrumental music, I highly recommend Chamber Music. It is an album filled with beauty, contemplation, and balance, conjuring up whatever worlds you let it take you to.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Harmony of Timbre and Improvisational Spirit April 8 2012
By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel - Published on
Format: Audio CD
In this unique collaboration, the timbres of mellow bowed baritone cello and plucked alto kora harp produce a sonically gorgeous album. Until track 4, the tempo is slow and the mood meditative and quiet; but this piece is a dance whose riff repetition at the end is trancelike. At first in the album, Segal plays accompaniment to Sissoko's melodic kora; in track 5, Histoire de Molly, it is the cello that lays down the melody for subsequent improvisations. The following work, again a Segal composition, raises the mood with a sweet whirling tune. The griot Sissoko, a master of his instrument and Malian musical traditions, performs with gentleness. He sings in track 7, and he sings well. Track 8, Halinkata Djoubé, is among the best, with each musician alternating the lead playing similar improvisations. The harmony of spirit and feeling is remarkable throughout the 55-minute long album. Overall, it is soft, lyrical, and intimate. This is not the strong, lively, rhythmic music we typically associate with Africa. This chamber music is of the stillness of night and reflections of the human condition.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
For those of you who think it's all been done.... Jan. 19 2011
By Kevin L. Junemann - Published on
Just listen and do some basic internet searching to learn about the players. It's like a history of the world at once encountered and interpreted to remind us of our unity through music. Very cool.
Interesting collaboration Feb. 4 2013
By Robert M. Baird - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is charming and melodic collaboration between a cellist and an African koro player. The title is accurate, in that it is chamber music or music played in a small room. It is not "classical" whatever that means, but these two guys listen to each other and improvise. It is contemplative and joyous, highly original and defies classification. It reminds me of a Ryan Cooder duet with an Indian musician, A Meeting By the River. Highly recommended.

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