On the dark stage of the Theatre Royal, on a magical night of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, a light sculpts the shape of Sidiki Diabaté. He holds and tunes his kora. From silence the first notes emerge as a warm voice through a growing feeling of commotion. His fingers dance on the strings of his instrument and a sweet composition vibrates in the air as a lullaby.
After his first song, Toumani Diabaté appears on the stage and sits on the second chair. They look at each other, father and son, and without speaking they start to play, tuned on the same melody in a bind of notes which ties the spectators.
It is a sequence of songs; then silence is broken by the clapping of the audience. The spectacle goes on for around one hour. Then Toumani Diabaté takes the microphone and with his smile gives thanks to the spectators. He says: “Thank you England for adopting me. I’m a Camden boy! I arrived here from Mali in 1986; since then I have been living here and travelling around the world with my music.”
He looks at his son and states: “Our dream is to bring beauty to the world.”
The African Kora music is beauty which penetrates hearts. Kora is an instrument made by a half calabash covered with cow skin and strung with fishing lines. It is played using only four fingers on twenty-one strings whose sound is smartly combined in one time by the players.
He continues: “The most important thing to me is to bring this music from the past. This is the free jazz of the tradition. Listening to the music you might feel like dancing or just to close your eyes and dream with the melody. What we play is all about peace and spirituality.”
The last song the duo play is called Lampedusa. “We wrote this song thinking of the 300 plus Africans who passed away trying to reach the costs of Lampedusa in Italy, last October 2013. We were lucky to get a chance of working, of getting a VISA. But now everything is difficult. If you don’t have a VISA, if you don’t have money you are nothing. This is very sad,” Toumani Diabaté concludes.
The last notes sound like all the words of those who were lost in a sea of hope.
The end is a noisy clapping of enthusiastic spectators while Toumani and Sidiki leave the scene.