Kronos Quartet pairs with Malian band Trio Da Kali for new album 'Ladilikan'
Courtesy of World Circuit Records

The Kronos Quartet has put out about 60 albums over the course of their 45-year career, and they’ve redefined the notion of what a string quartet is during that time. The band, currently consisting of David Harrington and John Sherba on violins, Hank Dutt on viola and Sunny Yang on cello. Whether the band is collaborating with minimalist composer Philip Glass, industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails or with Tom Waits and his weather-beaten voice, fans can always count on Kronos to provide an interesting listen rife with surprises. Now Kronos Quartet has collaborated with African group Trio Da Kali for their upcoming (Sept. 15) release Ladilikan.

Trio Da Kali are balafon (xylophone) player Fodé Lassana Diabaté, bass ngoni (lute) player Mamadou Kouyaté and singer Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabaté and here the Malian band’s music is arranged by frequent Kronos collaborator Jacob Garchik. Hawa’s strong voice dominates the understated album opener “Tita” as she sings mournfully in Malian dialect while her trio partners play a gentle melody; about a minute into the song the Kronos Quartet players ease into the melody, with their bursts of strings growing more emphatic as the song progresses.

“Kanimba” features a fast-played solo from Fodé; if there is any such thing as shredding on the xylophone, he does it here. Still singing in dialect, Hawa tackles the somber gospel chestnut “God Shall Wipe All Tears Away” but she takes a song off during “Samuel;” the cut is a playful instrumental where the Kronos violins demonstrate how beautifully they can mesh with Fodé’s perky balafon melody. Not surprisingly the title cut is a standout track, filled with dramatic strings swooshes from Kronos, entrancing xylophone solos and perhaps Hawa’s best vocal turn of the album. Everything on Ladilikan has a mesmerizing effect and listening to the set is almost like participating in some type of secret ritual. It’s unlikely that Ladilikan will be much of a secret though; fans of Kronos Quartet and West African music are likely to talk their heads off about this one.

Follow the Kronos Quartet here.

Follow Trio Da Kali here.