Vieux Kanté The Young Man's Harp (Sterns)
cdRoots Code: st-1127
Press info: Vieux Kanté's The Young Man's Harp is a treasure nearly lost forever amid the vast wealth of Malian music. The blind kamalé ngoni virtuoso Vieux Kanté had many fans in Bamako, thanks to his electrifying shows in the city, but he was practically unknown outside of Mali. He had just finished recording an album that almost certainly would have launched him and his band on a brilliant global trajectory when he died unexpectedly at age 31 in 2005. This is the first time the album has been released. Vieux Kanté was an innovator. Having mastered the kamalé ngoni ("young man's harp") while just a teenager, he grew frustrated by the instrument's limitations, and so he added two strings to the standard six, enabling himself to reach notes beyond the traditional West African pentatonic scales. Eventually he graduated to ten and finally twelve strings, and extended his range still further by bending the strings like a blues guitarist.
Exemplified on this album, his signature techniques also included popping the strings to accent beats, rubbing them to produce squeaks and moans, and lightly placing his fingers at just the right points to produce bell-toned harmonics. But for all Vieux Kanté's dazzling abilities, his music is enriched by the skills and sensibilities of his bandmates, especially his djembe drummer, his funky bassist, and singer Kabadjan Diakité. The Young Man's Harp is a musical revelation. The album notes are by the author of In Griot Time, Banning Eyre, who also contributes his unpublished photos of Vieux Kanté.
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