Album: Toumani Diabate, The Mande Variations (World Circuit)

Never has the Malian kora harp sounded so beautiful as in this new record by its greatest living master. Toumani Diabate was always able to develop patterns of sound with his 21-string instrument which were as richly complex as any improvisation by Charlie Parker, and he does so here more brilliantly than ever before. Devoid of amplification or accompaniment, his spell is powerfully reinforced by the sheer quality of the recording. The instrument sings; the music is rapt and reflective, the tracks luxuriously long, and the stylistic inflections are starting to resemble those of north Indian raga music.