Chamber Music is a collaboration between Ballaké Sissoko, who plays the traditional kora, a lute-harp from Mali, and Vincent Ségal, the French cellist who plays for the trip-hop band Bumcello. It is also, quite simply, one of the most elegant and beautiful recordings of "world music" in recent years. At a time when cross-cultural music has tended toward highly-caffeinated electric pop and dance music, Sissoko and Ségal remind us that there is room -- and maybe even a need -- for a quieter, more refined world music.
Both musicians have displayed an aptitude for defying expectations -- the list of trip-hop cellists is pretty short, after all. And Ballaké Sissoko has become a familiar name on the world music scene through his work with American blues legend Taj Mahal and Italian minimalist Ludovico Einaudi, among others. But perhaps the combination of kora and cello works so well because there are no expectations for it. The collaboration grew out of a personal friendship, and at no point was there an attempt to produce a record that would be slick and hip and commercial. Yet it has become one of Europe's most buzzed-about world music recordings in the past year.
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