On one side we have David Neerman, a free spirit in an orbit of his own across Europe's fledgling creative scene. A lunar poet of the vibraphone, he's as much at home in the precious, evanescent universe of Korean chanteuse Youn Sun Nah as he is in the spontaneous, urban slam of Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band, contemporary post-jazz, or the thousand-year-old poetry of Mandinka music. In short, a musician of today living very much in the present; a man both curious and erudite with a hunger for all kinds of music from Morton Feldman to Sonic Youth, constantly seeking out whatever is being played here, and now, that's new and genuinely inventive…
On the other side, Lansiné Kouyaté, a Maestro of Mali's music and an undisputed master of the balafon, "the classical piano of Africa" (dixit Neerman). As a child prodigy (with a Griot mother, and a father who played the balafon…), he was enrolled by the National Orchestra of Mali when barely ten and then hired away by Salif Keita before he started turning up unexpectedly almost everywhere. He's partnered the greatest names in West African music from Baaba Maal to Mory Kanté, but he's also a bold experimenter who's adapted the ancestral sounds of his instrument to the most diverse languages to be found in either "serious" or popular contemporary music, from Béjart's ballets to Joe Zawinul, via the rappers of Positive Black Soul, the Cuban music of Omar Sosa or the "Red Earth" Mali project helmed by Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Their story begins in 2003, when a girl they knew introduced them; the two men hit it off instantly, each finding in the other the ideal person to talk to when it came to sharing secrets and, more than that, finding the means to make these two cousins, the balafon and the vibraphone, ring together collectively, each at the same time so close and yet so far apart in tessitura, sound, matter, playing technique, history and imagination.
Over long hours of improvisation the two musicians would exchange their wisdom and other possessions, progressively laying down the bases for a mutant universe of sound whose process was totally organic and laid on the foundations of Mandinka music, yet which made a radical break with all the clichés of the music called "fusion" or "world".
Accompanying them on this recording are contrabassist Ira Coleman (Dee Dee Bridgewater, Laurent de Wilde) , drummer Laurent Robin (Arthur H, Bernard Lubat), and Malian singer Mamani Keita on the magnificent title “Touma”. With this album, their first, Kouyaté & Neerman unveil new territory that is both authentic and innovative, a work of poetic power that is absolutely stunning.