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Seckou Keita

October 2014

WORLD music star Seckou Keita, a kora player originally from Senegal but now living in Sneinton, will join Welsh harpist Catrin Finch at St Mary’s Church in High Pavement tomorrow for a performance of songs from their acclaimed album, Clychau Dibon.

It has earned them Roots’ Critics Poll Album of the Year, Songlines’ Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration Award and two nominations for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, plus an abundance of four and five-star reviews. Neil Spencer from Uncut magazine described it as “intricate, ethereal and entrancing, an elaborate pas-de-deux... remarkable”.

But what brought Keita to Nottingham?

“My ex-partner was working here for a year and a half so we moved here nine years ago,” says the 36-year-old father-of-three, who stayed when they split up. “I like it here. It’s really friendly. It’s not like London with all the traffic. It’s less busy and I can walk everywhere.”

He’s also lived in Norwich and Bristol and taught African Studies in London, moving from Senegal in the 90s to work, as an expert in the kora, an African stringed instrument.

“It’s not an instrument to learn if you like noise. You can’t be disturbed by the noise from a TV or an iPad when you are learning the kora because it’s more of a classical instrument.

“It helps kids learn how to concentrate. I realised that with my son, who loves drumming and making a noise. When he started to learn the kora it really helped with his concentration.”

Keita doesn’t spend a great deal of time in Nottingham as he’s on the road a lot, currently around the UK and Europe with Finch.

Clychau Dibon topped the Amazon World Music charts, leading to a summer of festival dates, including Womad, Cambridge Folk Festival, Shambala and Festival Interceltique, Lorient where they double billed with Anoushka Shankar.

They have been working together for three years and performed 57 shows so far.

You wouldn’t expect the kora and the harp to work together.

“(Laughs) I know, if you think about it you’d say ‘what’s going on!?’. The instruments are from different worlds, different cultures but there are similarities, as Catrin and myself found out. The chemistry between us is huge.

“Although, because she’s classically trained, to start with she was writing notes down. She realised that it has to be done from memory and to go with her feelings. So she stopped reading and writing music.

“For me, I had to learn to have more structure because I was used to improvisation.”

The result is hard to pigeonhole as the music blurs the boundaries between world music, classical and folk.

Robin Denselow of The Guardian described a London show earlier this year as “one of the classic concerts of the year”.

The duo have talked about a follow-up album but prior to that they each have solo albums to release.

“We have enough material for another album already,” he says, some of which they’ll be playing at tomorrow’s concert.

“I’ve finished my solo album which will be out early summer, then a tour at the end of next year. And Catrin is the same, so it’ll be the year after.”

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, St Mary’s Church, High Pavement, Saturday October 18, 7.30pm, £15, 0115 989 5555, 

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