By Mpiletso Motumi
Kora meets Maskandi is a collaborative musical project that aims to unite the continent through music.
Project producer Talla Niang has been living in South Africa for 20 years and has specialised in the arts scene in the country his arrival.
He was chairperson of the Rosebank Craft Market for a number of years, and opened the first African cuisine restaurant in Maboneng, House of Baobab. He also was a founding member of the African Diaspora Forum.
As head of the arts and culture task team, he has initiated programmes including the Africa Week Festival and works as an agent for pan-African musicians.
“I live and breathe pan-Africanism. This project came together three years ago, I was working with South African music legend Bheki Khoza and tried to get who I think is the best kora player in the world, Senegalese Noumoucounda Cissoko to come to South Africa for recordings, but he had his own tour schedule at that time. We sent him songs and he would add in his parts.”
Niang chose the traditional sounds of the kora and maskandi to merge different cultures.
“For me, the most powerful tools of bringing people together is music and food. Politicians get it wrong; to unite the continent we need to start with what puts us together, which is arts and culture. The synergy between the Zulu music and the Mandingo music, you would think they were playing together for years. There is more similarity than there is division, (so) why not use those similarities to unite us?” he asked.
Ekurhuleni-based singer Nthabiseng Thejane is part of the musical ensemble.
“I got involved in this project to bring the spirit of ubuntu back to Africa. We have lost so much and right now we don’t respect or love each other. Being part of this project, I am showing people that we are one with the rest of the continent.”
The Kora Meets Maskandi project showcase was initially scheduled to take place on Africa Day in May but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
The event finally took place last Friday at Afro Bru in Maboneng.