Ubud Concert Series: With ‘jali’ Vieux Cissokho
by Chris O’Connor on 2013-04-26
Speaking as an enthusiastic lover, but relative newcomer, to World Music, one of the most delightful elements of the Ubud Concert Series is how it often directs me into the realms of the musical and spiritual unknown. Just when I begin to feel I have a reasonable level of appreciation and knowledge, a new and hitherto unfamiliar musical or poetic style is offered to entice me back for more.
Intriguing instrument: Jali Vieux Cissokho is a master of the kora, a traditional instrument with 21 to 22 strings that is technically a harp, but looks completely different. Cissokho will play in Ubud on Saturday evening. Courtesy of Franki Raden Intriguing instrument: Jali Vieux Cissokho is a master of the kora, a traditional instrument with 21 to 22 strings that is technically a harp, but looks completely different. Cissokho will play in Ubud on Saturday evening. Courtesy of Franki Raden This month’s upcoming musical performance has once again ignited and fuelled that curiosity and interest, and jali Vieux Cissokho is far more than just a well-honed and talented musician. Born in Ziguinchor, Southern Senegal, raised to the ever-present accompaniment of song, story and the incredible traditional musical instrumentation of the kora, he will be performing at the serene House of Masks in Mas, south of Ubud, on the evening of 27 April.
The kora is not an ancient instrument when compared to its lute- or harp-like peers, and the earliest written reference I can find is in Travels in Interior Districts of Africa written by British explorer Mungo Park, published in 1799. Sitting or standing and with the instrument facing him the jali will use the thumb and index finger of both hands to pluck the strings to create an amazing blend of notation and rhythm. Although technically a harp, the sound often resembles an extraordinary blend of flamenco and delta blues in the hands of a skilled jali.
Featuring 21 strings, or 22 with a bass string, the traditional technique is to produce polyrhythmic patterns; two conflicting rhythms played simultaneously, one with each hand. The masters of this incredible instrument also make use of kumbengo, an ostinato technique where the music is a succession or repartition of equally weighted and stressed phrases. Think of Ravel’s Bolero as the perfect example. Additionally, the most talented will also play incredibly complex and challenging improvised solos, called birimintingo.
The name jali, or groit, in French, is reference to the heritage of the players who are not only musicians but traditional storytellers, the keepers of local history and myth. Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators says, “Though the griot has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable.” The jali is not unlike an Indonesian dalang, the master puppeteer and narrator of wayang (shadow puppet) performances.
Jali Vieux Cissokho is a master of the kora, to which he was apprenticed s a boy. He plays exacting traditional pieces and is a notable composer of beautifully uncompromising music and words that, in its own unique way, transports us into Africa. His upcoming performance will start at 8 p.m. at The House of Masks, which is located in Kampung Seni Kubu Bingin, Mas, just south of Ubud.
Tickets are priced at Rp 100,000 (US$10.24) and Rp 30,000 for concessions. They are limited and can be booked by calling 081237492402 or 0361971871.
article submitted by:Arlo Hennings, Lokaswara Foundation