Between 2003 and 2005, innovative Gambian kora player Foday Musa Suso and legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette toured together and recorded Music from the Hearts of the Masters (2005), a wonderful collaboration between two genuine masters of their respective instruments. The kora is a fascinating instrument which has of course had a huge influence on early American blues music, especially on the banjo and blues guitar picking styles:
The alternating-thumb base pattern and distinctive finger-picking style of blues are reminiscent of West African kora playing and earlier banjo styles, reflecting an African American musical tradition that preceded the blues style from the Mississippi Delta. Smithonian Folkways
Conversely, Californian singer songwriter Joanna Newsom has acknowledged the influence of kora players’ polyrhythm patterns on her music and has integrated them into her own harp style. The song Go long from her latest release Have One on Me (2010) even features a duet with a kora.
Apart from two traditional kora tunes, all other tracks on Music from the hearts of the masters are complex and hypnotic variations on “grooves” initiated by the musicians. In songs like “Ocean wave” or Worldwide funk, the chemistry unfolding between Foday Musa Suso and Jack DeJohnette is a joy to watch and listen to. Both players manage to generate a unique musical idiom that is neither Jazz nor traditional African, but both highly rhythmic and melodic at the same time.