Youssoupha Sibide is the latest kora player to enter my music collection. The kora is a lute-harp that many African musicians master to amazing effect because it’s percussive, melodic and if you have nimble fingers, it really does sound like a lute and harp playing together at the same time.
Kora albums usually fit somewhere on the spectrum between ambient and meditative across to festival fanfare dances and highly melodic. Often many kora albums pick where they are on the spectrum and stay there, giving a specific mood, which is fine. Youssoupha’s strength with Sacred Sounds is that the music flits around the spectrum, often like a wave of emotion. Each of the twelve tracks over the 71 minutes blends seamlessly into each other. There is no start and stop, it’s a journey you take and some of that will be frantic and melodic, some of it will plod like a traveller in a dry barren land, and others will reflectively bend notes to the sky. It is all part of Sacred Sounds’ charm and it’s a stronger album for the variation. There are a couple of standout moments. “Bamba Dji” feels very much like an African take on flamenco guitar on the kora, “Xaleyi” has a cheeky bounce in its step and builds up like a rush of blood and the title track itself is a beautifully melodic swirl of riffs that you could listen to for hours.
Sacred Sounds is a beautiful ode to the instrument that is the kora. Sidibe can take a seat alongside the leader Toumani Diabate and feel comfortable there. It’s a wonderful album.
Recommended Track: Sacred Sound