Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra 

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Malian kora master Toumani Diabate has made plenty of records showcasing traditional Mande music at its purest, but he's also known for his boundary-pushing collaborations. Over the years he's worked with flamenco musicians (Ketama), bluesmen (Taj Mahal), jazzmen (Roswell Rudd), and rock guitarists (Ry Cooder)--and always made the results sound natural rather than crassly spliced together. His long-running Symmetric Orchestra, made up of Mande musicians from throughout western Africa, plays--frequently with guests--at the nightclub Hogon whenever Diabate's back home in Bamako. Boulevard de l'Independance (World Circuit/Nonesuch, 2006), their only record, covers most of Diabate's sylistic palette, featuring ngoni and balafon side by side with electric guitar and drum kit. The result is lyrical and satisfyingly complex, both harmonically and melodically, with rhythms that summon audiences to the dance floor. A 14-member version of the group is touring, including vocalists Kasse Mady Diabate and Mamadou Kouyate. a 7 and 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $30, $25 in advance.

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