Kay Meek Arts Centre
From the 12th century up to today, the Griots, known as “the Bards of West Africa”, have transmitted their music and knowledge from generation to generation through a sophisticated and unbroken oral tradition. This concert explores the epics of the Mandinka Kingdom, together with the griot master of the kora, Ablaye Cissoko. Montreal’s Ensemble Constantinople will support Cissoko with their signature flair to create a cosmopolitan sound that blends West Africa with Persia.
In partnership with the Kay Meek Arts Centre
This concert is generously supported by Birgit Westergaard & Norman Gladstone and Melody Mason & Joe Gilling
RÊVERIES – Kiya Tabassian
MARYAMA – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
DENKILO – Ablaye Cissoko
VERS ISFAHAN – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
TRAVERSÉES – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
SIRIFO – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
DÉPARTS – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
KAILEN – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
POISSON AU FOND DE L’OCÉAN – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
DJOTNA – Ablaye Cissoko
TAMALÀ – Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko
SERIGNE BI SIGNARE – Ablaye Cissoko
ALKALO – Ablaye Cissoko
“My garden is my work. My memory is the soil of my garden, which grows in this earth, spreads its roots and penetrates the soil to go elsewhere, to unite with the universe.” Kiya Tabassian
Everywhere, from time immemorial, the Word has been embodied by the bard, the troubadour, the griot. These wordsmiths, at once messengers and peacemakers, are the links with the forces of nature, the inexpressible divine, the memory of the ancients. It falls to them to maintain the realm of the collective soul.
Nowadays, these freethinkers and travellers are making the world their garden… Like Constantinople’s musicians and Ablaye Cissoko, griot from Saint-Louis, Senegal, all eternally migrating birds. This meeting between Ablaye and Constantinople, between strings and vocals, goes back in time to evoke the beauty of being. It is a joint passage through the common sites of the imagination, like a long breath before the inexorable march of the world and time.
From the start, this dialogue between the kora and the setar seemed to come from the depths of the earth, as though these instruments, along with the percussion, had always existed side by side. This natural symbiosis gave us wings to fly towards distant horizons, and our music has been heard over one hundred times in various festivals and halls around the world.
This exceptional harmony that exists today between our music and our selves has allowed us to create works inspired by our inner gardens and shared voyages, which we present to you with this concert.
Denkilo means song – of humankind, of animals, of nature. Song carried by griots, according to the role conferred on them and which they will, in turn, confer. A song of unimaginable power, that sometimes overcomes even the griots themselves. A song that awakens the spirit to those truths that we already know, but that we are often too deeply asleep to recognize..
Maryama is beauty, kindness, generosity, and hospitality. It is a woman with so many qualities as to be indescribable. Always ready to welcome, and in whom there is neither suffering, nor anger.
I would wish for Maryama as my mother, my spouse, my sister, my daughter… But I do not think many people like her exist. So, I wish at least that each of these women mentioned could have Maryama as a friend.
Inhabitants of the same village or country share certain figures of reference, extraordinary characters, assurers of social stability in whom they have unlimited confidence. Then come periods of demise, when all these leaders suddenly pass on, when worry and doubt take root. Departures during which everyone feels lost and wonders: is the next generation ready? What will this next generation be? And most of all, will it be worthy?
Echoing these words of Ablaye, the great poet Amir Khosrow (1253-1325), sung by Kiya, laments the departure of his loved ones and asks the new buds of springtime to give him news of his friends who have returned to the earth.
KAILEN « Come » (in Wolof)
Kailen is a call to assembly: “Come. Let us love each other. And let this love be sincere. Let us speak with one voice, let us rise together. It is in unity that we will accomplish social peace and move things forward for our country.”
DJOTNA « It is time » (in Wolof)
Billions could rain down on Africa, but it would not necessarily become developed. For the development and true wealth of a nation comes first from the education of its children. As major projects and investments are multiplying on the continent, it is time to demand quality public schools to which all our children will have equal access.
Some village women, despite their hands damaged by hard daily labour, are as beautiful as Signares, those elegant ladies of St. Louis. Yet, their external beauty hides a great internal suffering, for tradition forces them to marry men who take advantage of their goodness and give them nothing in return. Men whom they nonetheless treat with great respect, and go so far as to put on pedestals by calling them “Serigne-bi”, a title for the descendants of spiritual guides respected for their knowledge and teaching.
The alkalo is the judge found within each of us. The one who can separate reasoning of the mind from reasoning of the heart. The one who knows how to listen, welcome, and accept facts whatever they may be, and come down on the side of truth. It is not granted to everyone to be a good alkalo, but this piece is for those who have faith in a truth that will always triumph.
Constantinople is a musical ensemble that chose the journey—geographical certainly, but also historical, cultural and inner—as its cornerstone. It draws inspiration from all sources and aims for distant horizons. Inspired by the ancient city illuminating the East and West, Constantinople was founded in 1998 in Montreal by its artistic director, Kiya Tabassian.
Since its founding, the ensemble promotes the creation of new works incorporating musical elements of diverse musical traditions around the world, drawing from medieval manuscripts to a contemporary aesthetic, passing by Mediterranean Europe to Eastern traditions and New World Baroque. Underpinned by a spirit of research and creation, Constantinople has joined forces with leading international artists such as singers Marco Beasley, Françoise Atlan, Savina Yannatou and Suzie Le Blanc; the Mandinka griot Ablaye Cissoko; the Greek ensemble En Chordais, the Belgian duo Belem and the American group The Klezmatics; sarangi virtuoso Dhruba Ghosh, Syrian clarinettist and composer Kinan Azmeh, and Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor.
Regularly invited to perform in international festivals and prestigious concert halls, such as the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Berliner Philharmonie, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, the Rencontres musicales de Conques in France, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, the Cervantino Festival in Mexico, the Festival de Carthage in Tunisia, the Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens and the BOZAR in Brussels, Constantinople is acclaimed by the public, music professionals and critics alike. The ensemble has 19 albums to its credit on labels Analekta, Atma, World Village, Buda Musique, MaCase, Glossa, and Dreyer Gaido. Over the past fifteen years, Constantinople has created nearly 50 works and travelled to more than 240 cities in 54 countries.
Kimintang Mahamadou Cissoko, aka Ablaye Cissoko, is a singer and kora player who incarnates the crossover between Mandinka traditions and contemporary musical creation. Known for his amazing display of musical genius, he is one of the finest kora player in the world and is able to collaborate with both jazz, world music and even classical artists.
Living nowadays in Saint-Louis, he is an eternal traveller who has performed all around the world, playing with international artists such as Randy Weston, François Jeanneau, Eric Bibb, Simon Goubert, Sophia Domancich, Majid Bekkas, Omar Pene, Emmanuel Bex, Habib Faye, François Verly, Volker Goetze, and Eduardo Eguez, among others.
Since 2012, he collaborates regularly with Constantinople ; together, they recorded two albums, Itinerant Gardens (Ma Case, 2015) and Traversées (Ma Case 2019), and performed more than 100 concerts on the 5 continents.