Feb 12, 2013
The River Niger Project
Through the heart of West Africa flows a river that runs from the Fouta Jallon Mountains in the West to the volatile Niger delta in the East. It passes through many countries and territories including Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Through millennia the river has seen kingdoms, nations and civilizations, rise and fall, but it continues relentlessly on its annual cycle as a heartbeat, nurturing both the land and the peoples of this part of the World. With the challenge of the encroaching desert, the river marks the continuum from past to present always adapting to new circumstances yet remaining true to its own source. Tradition is like the river always needing to change to new circumstance yet remaining true to its source. In the Griot Tradtion, music is its water, flowing in the moment yet reflecting the eternal. How does a legacy remain true to itself and yet be free to move with the times? Are there still lessons to be learnt and drawn from the traditions of old? Music and culture, like the river, are also the heartbeat of the people for they carry the hopes and aspirations against and through the challenges and harsh realities of daily life. It is the people’s bloodline with the griots and artists as the voice of resistance or the channel of reassurance, the guardians and custodians of the collective heritage.
The River Niger project is centered around the legendary music of Mali, one of the richest musical heritages in the World. It brings together, for the first time, some of the most celebrated Malian artists into an integrated score with a String Quintet, the African Classical Music Ensemble and the seminal sound of West African chorus vocals. Led by Composer/Producer, Tunde Jegede, The River Niger project will feature the Malian vocalists, Kasse Mady Diabate and Oumou Sangare together with premier Kora player, Toumani Diabate. It will also feature the African Classical Music Ensemble, the Brodsky String Quartet and enigmatic classical bassist, Chi-chi Nwanoku. With some of the world’s finest classical ensembles, The River Niger project draws from the classical traditions of Africa and Europe to tell the story of the peoples around the great River Niger through the journey of the river itself.
"Fleuve Niger" will follow the development of Tunde's music from the recording studios in Bamako and London, to a world tour of the entire ensemble. The synthesis of classical and African themes, a genre' of music rarely explored, is mastered here by Tunde. The music will become the soundtrack to a journey through the magnificent region and cultures of the Niger River; Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Griots tell their,stories, explain ancient traditions and history, kept alive for generations through the music. The desert gives way to the River, and communities along the banks thrive, irrigating crops, fishing, transporting goods and people; in many regions this is the only water for a thousand miles. The people know that "amaniman"; water is life. Many have been scorched by drought and famine losing animals, crops and family. The cultures are strong and robust but life is hard; they understand more than anybody the preciousness of water and they celebrate it. There are many languages along the river, all connected by music and its universal dialect. This is the metaphor of "Fleuve Niger"; that we are all related by an all embracing language and by the most essential element on earth, water. The journey ends where it began, with the music ensemble onstage. African audiences dissolve into an audience at Carnegie Hall. As the musicians bow to applause, we fly over the River, with the sun shimmering in the water at sunset.