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World Music Matters

Blues, gospel and west African kora music ring out in Paris church

Audio 10:56
Eric Bibb
Eric Bibb ©Lukas Maeder

African American bluesman Eric Bibb continually nourishes his folk and gospel heritage in new and interesting ways. His latest musical adventure brought together Ablaye Cissoko, a master kora player from Senegal and a gospel choir led by Emma Lamadji. The trio performed in one of Paris's oldest churches at the recent St Germain des Près Jazz Festival.  


Bibb’s idea was to make “a bridge between African-American spirituals and west African praise music with the kora”.

The result is outstanding, as if the 21-string kora were blues and gospel's natural ally.

“I feel very connected to the music of Ablaye, the kora music of west Africa is close to my heart,” says Bibb adding that the concert aimed to make the public feel that sense of connectedness too.

Playing in church is a far cry from the juke joints great bluesmen like Robert Johnson hung out in in the 30s and 40s, but Bibb proves blues can find a home in church too.

“Blues is not devil music, it’s a sacred music but with a secular expression,” he says. “We’re not in a juke joint, but it’s all divine music.”

Divine in more ways than one. Listen for yourselves.

Reporting today from Antoine Lalanne-Desmet.

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