Backstage with Modou Ndiaye

Thu 2 May 2019

Fresh from two sell-out concerts at Exeter Phoenix and The Globe at Hay, kora player, singer and composer Modou Ndiaye and his acclaimed band of musicians are set to tour Dorset to kick off our summer season. We caught up with Modou ahead of the tour...

Modou, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Dorset following on from your brother Seckou Keita’s Artsreach tour two years ago. As members of the famous Cissokho family of griot musicians, you have a rich musical heritage. Tell us more about your family’s musical background.

Hey, thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be part of this tour. I come from a big musical family, we all play and we all sing. Traditonally men play kora and women sing. We are a griot family, and it is a tradition for the elders to pass their kora knowledge to the younger generation. 

How did you come to learn the kora?

I learned the kora from my grandfather called Jali Kemo Cissokho and also my uncle who is very well known in Senegal called Solo Cissokho. As I said before, you learn from the house, and when you’re seven or eight your grandfather will start to give you kora lessons. Some griots also send their son to another village to learn the kora, but I was very lucky to be able to learn the kora in my family house. 

What can you tell us about this amazing West African instrument? 

A kora is an African harp. It’s all handmade from calabash pumpkin and cowskin and the strings are made from fishing line strings. 

You possess a talent for fusing together traditional and modern sounds using a variety of West African instruments. What inspires you to create your music?

Humanity, peace, family, my kids, my friends, all of those.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Well first of all the music has brought me to England, which makes me proud to see the world. Also to collaborate with some great musicians and to be a part of the movie ‘Blood Diamond’ and the TV series ‘Skins’. My concert with the Bristol Symphony Orchestra was commissioned by and performed to the high sheriff of Bristol. Another highlight was making my latest album 'Londo' - a big thanks to the Arts Council for their support - and just also meeting great musicians.

What can we expect from your trio of Dorset performances?

 It’s going to be awesome! We’ve got four different talented musicians and it’s going to be very lively. I’m very very excited for these gigs.

You’ve performed at festivals and shows all over the world. What’s the most unusual venue you’ve ever performed in?   

I’ve played in many different types of venues, from boats to festivals.

 Have you experienced rural touring before or is this a slightly new venture for you? 

I have performed concerts and led many workshops in rural areas before, but this is the first time I’m playing for Artsreach and I’m very excited. 

What advice would you have for new musicians just starting out? 

First of all to work hard and never give up. Follow your dreams and one day the best thing will come. 

What’s next for you? 

I'll be continuing with the tour and hopefully next year there will be a new album!

Modou Ndiaye and his band perform at the following venues this May:

Thu 9 May: Wootton Fitzpaine Village Hall

Fri 10 May: Buckland Newton Village Hall

Sat 11 May: Shillingstone Portman Hall

Click the image to the right to find out more & book tickets!

Modou Ndiaye and band