Toumani and Sidiki Diabete

The Kilkenny Arts Festival lived up to its billing as one of the great centres for musical experimentation and exploration with this long awaited concert by Toumani and Sidiki Diabete in the Set Theatre, a cavern-like venue which, unfortunately, is not insulated from the delirium of Hen and Stag parties on the street outside.

Such is the dichotomy of modern day Kilkenny: a beacon for both the aesthetic and the thrashy.

Father and son, freshly arrived from Paris, conducted a conversation with the capacity and largely reverential audience via the kora, a 21-string West African harp. The ties binding Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté are particularly profound and evocative, as they are descended from a line of griots – custodians of the ancient oral traditions of West Africa’s Mandé people stretching back seven hundred years.

The Kilkenny gig was intimate, all too brief, but genuinely one for the annals. Their repertoire is derived from neglected kora pieces as viewed by two contemporary musicians, who exude a telepathic communication whilst playing with verve and wit. This was musicianship shorn of hubris or excess or any of the usual rubbish you find in most clubs. It was humble, pure and exquisite. No frills. Just brilliance.

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