Kora player N’Faly Kouyate comes to Band on the Wall in August. The Guinean musician has been praised for his accomplished playing as well as his ability to use the instrument in fusion music, as he did with the Afro Celt Soundsystem. He has played around the world with the Soundsystem as well as under his own name. We spoke to N’Faly about his time with Afro Celt Soundsystem, the possibilities of his chosen instrument and his live performances.
What did playing with Afro Celt Orchestra do to you as a musician, did have an effect on your playing style or your approach to music?
Performing with the Afro alt Sound System allowed me to discover many things I know nothing about, with them I discovered Irish music and the similarities between Irish and African instruments.. Afro-Celt gave me a taste for electronic music and that changed my vision of world music enormously. Indeed my new album is entirely electronic and allowed me to develop a new sound that I call Afrotonix.
What are the messages you wish to convey in your music, both live and on recordings and albums?
I condemn the abuse of power and the abuse of wealth. I speak up for the weak and denounce those who abuse their power on them. My music also brings advice, be it live or in recordings.
You play a West African instrument called a Kora, and you’ve used it for both traditional and more contemporary musical styles. Is it a versatile instrument, and could you see it being used in more western music or other styles of music than are typical?
I consider the Kora as a very ancient and traditional instrument. It is a large and a very complete instrument, when you know how to use it you can accompany any music in the world. Proof is have played with musicians from the Balkans, gypsies, tsiganes, Spanish, Jewish, Chinese, and so on. In my new album, Change I also make a lot of use of the electronic wawa pedal and other effects and use a lot of distortion to be able to compete with the rock guitar. On the other hand I have another project called Africa Meets the World which is in a style I have dubbed Afroclassic. This combines 20 or so violins and violas, even double bass that inter-mingles with West Afrian instruments and the kora, the all crowned with a gospel choir!
What do you most enjoy about live performance, and what do you hope the audience take away from your performances?
When I perform live I love to have a big sound. When I have a big sound and I hear the sound of my Kora mingling with the other instruments, I forget all the worries in the world and I do everything I can to make my audience happy. My wish is for the audience leaves having heard my messages and discovered the capacity of the Kora.