This week Duke will have the pleasure of hosting Bassekou Kouyate, a master musician from Mali, for several events. The first is a free listening session at the Pinhook in Durham at 6:3o on October 13th, where I along with Achille Mbembe will speak to Kouyate about his music, and the broader traditions of West African music it is in dailogue with.
On Friday the 14th, Kouyate will be performing at Reynolds Auditorium at the Bryan Center. This promises to be a terrific show. You can see Kouyate performing live in the video below.
The instrument Kouyate plays, the ngoni, is one of a series of West African instruments that provided the inspiration for the American banjo, an instrument developed by enslaved people on the plantations of the Caribbean and North America beginning in the 17th century. Kouyate was featured in a recent film by Bela Fleck on his journey to discover the roots of the banjo in Africa, Throw Down Your Heart. There will be a screening of the film on Wednesday, October 12th, at 7 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre, followed by a discussion of the film by me and UNC Professor Phil Gura. Gura is the author of a wonderful book about the banjo called America’s Instrument.
He has also toured with Bela; you can see one of their joint performances in the video below.