An Interview

Jean-Jacques Avenel

Artist Statement

The story of Waraba begins with my discovery of the kora. My interest in African music, its rhythmic richness, its sonorities, developed with my study of the sanza and then the kora (and its repertoire). The idea of blending the double bass with these instruments is an old dream which was sketched out on my solo record Eclaircie (1985). Meeting Yakhouba I owe to Phillipe Conrath, who invited us to perform at the Africolor Festival in 1997. This was a fruitful encounter, and we decided to continue. Yakhouba became my kora teacher, my friend and musical partner. Through him I met Moriba and Lansiné. The basic trio: Yakhouba, Lansiné and me. Sometimes Moriba replaces Lansiné, joined by Michel Edelin (2000).

The music that we play is based on the traditional Manding repertoire. It’s a meeting of individuals, a sharing of knowledge and passions, and the continuation of an old dream for me: the blending of sonorities (kora, bala, flutes, bass, n’goni), a desire to open things up and a respect for tradition. (Structured) improvisation is our playing field. The essential thing in this music is play, where the pleasure of playing is collective. The music is created around themes (introduced by one or the other of us) and improvisations on the harmonic structures (very simple) and rhythmic structures. The different ways of playing (traditional or a more modern approach) are expressed in a collective exchange from which soloists emerge.

Lansiné and Yakhouba are part of the new generation of “traditional” musicians, open to experiments and encounters. While respecting their traditions (musical and instrumental), particularly the acoustic sonorities of the instruments, they welcome get-togethers with musicians from other cultures. Lansiné is wide open to jazz from listening to vibraphonists (Milt Jackson, Gary Burton etc.) and musical encounters with European musicians (David Patrois, Philippe Macé, David Neerman); he’s also taken an interest in the marimba. Likewise, Yakhouba has performed with Jean-Phillipe Rykiel, Didier Malherbe. As for Michel Edelin, he quickly integrated himself into the group and brings to it the “singing” of the melodies as well as a commitment to improvisation, a certain poetic quality and a broad palette of sonorities. We mainly work by ear apart from Michel, who likes to notate the melodies on paper. Generally I choose, or rather, suggest repertoire to the musicians who of course can modify it as they see fit.

Jean-Jacques Avenel, Paris, 2004