Interview with Sousou & Maher, korafolalu

october 2012 at Festival Korafollart 2012 - Paris

Full Audio Version [of the interview]




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october 2012 at Festival Korafollart © LNB

1) Hi, Sousou & Maher, nice to meet you !

Sousou & Maher : Nice to meet you  too !


2) Where did you meet, together, I mean ?

Maher : We met in Senegal. I was living in Europe, in Germany but i was on holidays in Senegal and the  time i was living in Germany, I came back in Senegal and I met Sousou in Senegal. Sousou was there, in Casamance, in my brother's house. She has been invited by my brother to learn the kora. But she had been learning the kora, before, in Gambia.


3) Sousou, since which age did you began to learn the kora ?

Sousou (S.) : I was twenty when I really started to learn the kora !


4) Did you learn other instruments before ?

Yeah, I started with the violin, but I mean, I never worked with the violin, I've never played like good violin. I've just started then I changed and I played piano and flute and a little but guitar, but not so much. Just piano and singing and flute. And the flute I've learnt in the school.


5) Who was your kora teacher ?

My father was a musician and I learned from him and I learned much with my brothers.

6) What was the thing that made your interest about the kora ?

Because I didn't unsterdand how to play it. With the other instruments, I quickly unsterdood how to play them. But the kora was "what" ?!! The kora was very different.
And the sound of the kora was very beautiful; combined with the singing, it was so beautiful... And I liked the whole thing !


7) Did your father teach you how to play the kora ?

No, my father was not a korafolá A korafolá is a kora player in mandinka (who is able to make the kora talk) - korafolálu, plural. ! Its' a miswritting that "my father was a korafolá".
He just played together with korafolálu but he was NOT a korafolá A korafolá is a kora player in mandinka (who is able to make the kora talk) - korafolálu, plural. . He played accordion. The korafolálu played with my father, they were having concerts together. And you know, as a child, I used to go with them. So I've heard a lot of kora and I was very interested in the whole thing, stories and singing, about the kora.


8) Indeed, when I'm hearing your compositions, I feel that you like Mande traditions !

So, Maher, I know that you are hailing from the great jèlílua jèlí (plural, jèlílu) is a bard, loremaster, and praise-singer in the Manding areas whose functions are story-telling, speaking about lineages, singing and playing music as he want and hear it... Read more. and korafolálu Cissoko line.

And I woud like to know how has been your own way to the fusion because, in your music, I feel the love of tradition but I feel also many patterns of modern fusion style too. So I would like to know how was you own way to your interest in the modern kora fusion.

M. : If I mean what you are saying, it was just, for me, a way to claim that it's possible to play our own kora style, in our time.


You know, it's not only a matter of modernisation, but it's my role to play the music of our time. And, you know, I'm a part of a new generation, and I have to play the music of our time. I just cannot play like the old time, the time of my grandfathers ! If I say I would like to play like the old jèlílua jèlí (plural, jèlílu) is a bard, loremaster, and praise-singer in the Manding areas whose functions are story-telling, speaking about lineages, singing and playing music as he want and hear it... Read more. , it would be just a little bit hard ! Because the history is yet part of the past.

But the tradition is still the basis of our music. And that is the tradition that has give us the right to play our new style.


9) You know, there's a debate : actually, in West Africa, many people are loosing their traditions. So, some korafolálu don't want to play the kora in a modern way. They're struggling to keep the Mande traditions alive ! It's a point of view you may consider as a  korafolá A korafolá is a kora player in mandinka (who is able to make the kora talk) - korafolálu, plural. ...

Maher - october 2012 at Festival Korafollart © LNB

Maher : In fact, that point is quite true but, you know, I come from a great family. I'm the last of 10 children and 6 brothers who used to play ! And I'm the last number. And I didn't fell to play because I can say that the biggest, they eat all, you know ! (Laughings) So the youngest, even if they have talent, they have no feeling to play !  When I was born, my brothers were the best korafolálu of my family. And my first brother, Solo Cissoko, the one who lives in Norway, spread the kora worldwide to make a new sound ; and I listened to his compositions so that I felt tired of it, you know (Laughings) !


Sousou : You know, when Solo was the big star, Maher was only 6 years old ! There was already a big difference in age and in music between Maher and all his brothers. Maher was too younger !


Maher : So I had to try to play other instruments ; and I decide to find my way. I had to find my way ! And I had a chance to travel to Gambia, which is very close, as you know, to Senegal. There, I started to make my own sound with my sisters. Indeed, my sisters who were married had no job. They were living in their house and I was there. So they kept pushing me on playing kora ; so much that they gave me the desire to play kora and make my own sound. My sisters were singing and they often demanded me to play kora. And so on.

So, the Gambia offered me many things : there, I found my own way and I've learnt English. Then I have the chance to move to Germany and it was the beginning of my career.


10) And perhaps the Jalikunda project helped you to make you famous ?

Maher : Indeed, because with my brothers, we had toured for a long time in the 90's and also with the Jalikunda project.

Sousou : You know, they were all already famous, Solo and Seckou KeitaSeckou Keita is a brilliant live performer with stacks of charisma, and one of the few champions of the less-known and rhythmically rocking kora repertoire from Casamance in southern Senegal where he is from... Read more, before the Jalikunda project. But, indeed, I think also Jalikunda CD made them more big, more famous for they worked together in family.


11) And now, I would like to know how do you explain the reason of your "success" in Europe ;

I mean, how do you explain the fact that you are famous now ?

Sample of Sousou & Maher Cissoko
from : Stockholm-Dakar
Jaliya Mouta © 2012

Sousou : I mean, for me, I don't think we have "success". People say that but we are just trying, still we are working. We are not famous, for now. There is a long way still to go. We're just ... in the beginning, like trying !

Maher : Well, we are just trying, because those compositions are our own compositions and we want to talk about what is happening on this planet, in his world , what's going  on in the future. And it is not so difficult today... to live together.


Sousou : Because today there are a lot of discussions here and in Sweden, many "bla bla bla" about the meeting of cultures !


12) So your message is that the union between 2 different people is not so difficult ?

Sousou : But we're not different, that's what  ! Because we are more similar than many people from the same country. We have to be careful, here, to get right ! Because I have to say : some people think that we're uniting two different worlds, something like that. That is a thing some people sometimes write. And it is wrong !


The only thing you have to see is that there is only one world that is connected. That is the mission of our CD Stockholm-Dakar. To show the connection. It is not like one meeting between 2 different people ; there is not two different worlds meeting together. Actually, everything is already connected. There is only one world and all it is connected. You still have that thinking of passing off differences to progress more on the similarities, do you understand what I mean ?!


12) Indeed, your message is very clear !

Sousou and Maher : You know if there is a border, there is also a connection ! People focuses too much on the borders but not on the connection. Every border have something beetween, every border have a connection ! That's why we've done our CD Stockholm-Dakar ! You know what I mean ?!


Sousou - october 2012 at Festival Korafollart © LNB

14) Indeed, I understand very well what you're talking about. You know, I'm your very best fan ! At last, I would like to ask you about how do you feel about the perception of the kora and kora music in Europe ?

Sousou : Well, I suppose today everybody knows things about the kora !


15) Oh, you'll be a little disappointed if I tell you that the kora and famous worldwide korafolálu are still now, in France, not many famous  !

Oh ! Really ?!


16) So many thanks and for your great message and so long !

Sousou and Maher : Oh, thank you, too !




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