This came in the mail yesterday — a late Christmas present from my mom, who loves to surprise me with music that’s obscure or experimental or otherwise off my radar. She’s a devoted listener of Paul Shugrue’s Out of the Box show on WHRV, and she has such a great ear, especially when it comes to atypical combinations of sounds, which is what you’ll find on Ladilikan, the collaborative album released last year by Malian griot ensemble Trio Da Kali and the long-running San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet.
While the result certainly feels novel, this isn’t a case of worlds colliding. The common ground here seems harmonious and comfortable — comforting, even. They included a cover of a gospel tune called “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away,” and it reminds me a little of the uber-soothing rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Slumber My Darling” sung by Alison Krauss on Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology. According to the extensive liner notes in the vinyl edition of Ladilikan, Kronos’ musical director fell for the song after hearing Mahalia Jackson’s version, and Trio Da Kali vocalist Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate — daughter of Malian singing legend Kassé Mady Diabate — renders the song beautifully.