Sacred Sound by Youssoupha Sidibe
Hailing from Senegal, West Africa is Grammy Award nominated Youssoupha Sidibe. Though he currently resides in Amherst, Massachusetts, he continues to share the story of his West African heritage through his music.
There are few instruments that can stand alone with no vocals or percussion. Sometimes it is the musician who imbues the instrument with dimension, while other times, the instrument itself is so powerful that it carries its own rich soul and the musician is but a puppeteer. In the case of Sidibe, both instances are true.
On his album Sacred Sound, Sidibe showcases both his skill as a musician and the ancient soul that his instrument possesses. The 21-string African harp known as a Kora, has been his extra appendage for over 20 years. He studied with a traditional Kora instructor as well as at the National Music Conservatory of Senegal receiving both a private and formal education of the instrument. Sidibe’s love for and dedication to this indigenous African instrument has transcended his native land and made the transatlantic journey to the U.S.
Sacred Sound is a 12-track LP that explores the intricacies of African Devotional Music. Purely instrumental, just a man and his kora, each song weaves into the next through various time signatures and melodies. Because it was recorded during a live performance, there are no beginnings or ends, only a seamless flow from one song to the next. At times, the harp is tremulous and soothing, sending electric waves up the spine. Other times it is simple and slow as he allows each string to fully resonate. But to keep things interesting—like in the tracks “Dieuf” and “Bamba Dji”—he will sometimes play with the frenetic fury of a Jimmy Page guitar solo. Sidibe is as precise as he is organic.
“I had the songs ready before recording,” Sidibe explains. “I played them straight in a live performance setting with lots of improvisation to give it a natural progression of sounds and melodies that would stimulate a sense of peace and meditation for the listeners.”
Sacred Sound is a powerful piece of music that is simple in arrangement yet complex in technique. Listening to Sidibe’s dexterous playing is like hearing a snippet of ancient, musical history brought back to life in a digital era.