From Toumani Diabate, Ancient 'Variations'



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Fresh Air's world-music critic reviews The Mande Variations, a new CD from Malian performer Toumani Diabate.

Diabate, who says he descends from 71 generations of griots, or traditional song-storytellers, plays the kora, a 21-stringed West African harp. His debut album (1988's Kaira) and his two decades of work with a range of collaborators (including his own experimental outfit, the Symmetric Orchestra) has made him synonymous with the instrument — but The Mande Variations, named after the Mande empire of 13th-century Mali, is only his second solo disc.

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