‘Tunya’, to be released on is the second album by Guinean kora and balafon player/singer/composer and former Afro Celt Soundsystem member N´Faly Kouyaté and follows his 2004 debut ‘Kora Grooves’, both recorded with his band Dunyakan (‘the Voice of the World’).
N’Faly was born into one of the most celebrated families of griots of the Manding people (among the largest ethnic groups in West Africa); his father was Konkoba Kabinet Kouyate. Despite being traditionally trained from an early age, and also performing with the University Troupe of Conakry, N’Faly has been open to such Western music as Rock, Hip-Hop, Jazz and Classical.
On ‘Tunya’ he tells stories from his African home and about the unchanging nature of fate. The album communicates, with a stunning creativity, his concept of a modern form of world music. African rhythms are connected with string arrangements, African choirs, electronic sounds and instrumental improvisations and peak out in the groovy African pop song “Dubadén”, the a-capella choir piece “Niyó”, a percussion improvisation of the whole band in “Atypical conversation”, the beautiful ballad “Kobiyé” and the closing track, the instrumental “Kora Ballad”.
This last track particularly fulfils a personal dream of N´Faly in combining music of the West African griot tradition with string instruments coming from the Western classical music. In fact to European listeners N’Faly’s kora often sounds quite similar to the classical harpsichord which was widely used in baroque music. The ‘musical truth’ – which is what the Mandinka word “Tunya” translates to – lies somewhere between the apparently obvious relation between baroque music from the 17th century, and the subtle complexities of N´Faly’s traditional Manding music.
The 13 songs of the album alternate between kora and balafon-based songs and make for a truly diverse album which also highlights N’Faly’s strength in composition. ‘Tunya’ is a very personal statement of an exceptional African musician who acts as a great mediator and connects Western music with his own West African griot background in a subtle and sensitive way.
N’Faly first rose to prominence in the UK in 1997 when he became a member of the Afro Celt Soundsystem (later to be known as Afrocelts) after Peter Gabriel spotted him supporting Salif Keita at a concert. Led by guitarist/producer Simon Emmerson, the Real World Records act Afro Celt Soundsystem successfully fused dance rhythms with Celtic and African influences. Their album ‘Release’ (1999) was nominated for a Grammy award and also went Gold in Ireland; their third album ‘Further in Time’ (2001) was again nominated for a Grammy. Together with the Afro Celt Soundsystem, N’Faly who has been based in Brussels, Belgium, since 1996, toured all over the world, fascinating audiences with his musicianship and his exuberant energy. On stage his instruments – the kora and the balafon – almost appear to be a part of his body. He is currently touring all over Europe, including the UK, with his group Dunyakan.