Album of the Day: Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, “Ladilikan”

Ladilikan is a collaboration between Kronos Quartet, a giant in the world of contemporary Western string ensembles, and Trio Da Kali, three masterful griot musicians from Southern Mali. The result is a transcendent album, full of trancelike melodies and loose, skipping rhythms.

Kronos founder and artistic director David Harrington calls Ladilikan “one of the most beautiful” recordings the quartet has ever made. That’s saying something, considering Kronos’ extensive back catalogue, which includes collaborations with Terry Riley and Philip Glass; but just a few moments into the bright and twirling opening track “Tita,” it’s clear Harrington’s boast holds up.

More than just a document of triumphant postmodern genre-crossing, Ladilikan feels instead like a natural blending of musically disparate, but emotionally potent, forces. On “Eh Ya Ye,” swooping string parts both heighten and provide counterpoint to the deep, resonant melody of Fodé Lassana Diabaté’s balafon, a West African wooden xylophone. On “Kanimba,” those same strings function as back-up vocalists, framing Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté’s soulful voice. A jazzy bass n’goni snakes lazily beneath swelling, diving fiddles in “Garaba Mama,” and the moody, swaying “God Shall Wipe Out All Tears Away,” with its mournful melody, feels like a gospel ballad.

Throughout Ladilikan, two musical worlds collide, but it feels less like an unwieldy fusion than a natural, elemental whole. From start to finish, Ladilikan shatters the binary to sublime effect.

Katy Henriksen

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