“Most of our songs are meant to honour our ancestors, to connect people or to give advice on good behaviour.” - Layba Diawara

Layba Diawara was born in a family of musiciens in Faranah (Guinea, West Africa) in 1961. He played as a guitarist in different regional and national orchestras before he was asked to join the famous national orchestra “Bembeya Jazz International” in Guinea’s capital Conakry. In 1985 he made his first tour to Europe and the United States. In 1990 he settled in the Netherlands where, till today, he plays different styles of music and instruments with different groups. Recently he performed as a member of Tablatronics at the Kolkata International Music Festival organized by Song of Soul .This world music band from the Netherlands takes you on a journey through the most beautiful African melodies & soulful rhythms blended with state-of-the-art electronic music. “The unusual yet natural meeting of traditional African and modern World music brings together a deeper value of ancient traditions in the here and now, enriched by deep electronic sound-design & groovability. “The other members of Tablatronics who performed were Heiko Dijker (Tabla/Percussion), Igor Bezget (Guitar), Sharat Srivastava (Violin) and Joshua Samson(Hung/Percussion).

How did you start playing kora?

I started playing kora at home, in my family, because we are all musicians. When I was five years old, before going to school, my father started to teach me playing different instruments. Balafon, guitar, kora, ngoni, these are all our traditional instruments. I took my small kora (African harp with 21 strings) to India because this music sounds very much like Indian Sufi music.

Who or what has been your inspiration?

Without any doubt, my family. My grandfather used to play for me, my mother and my father also. They all gave me the passion for music and helped me to find my way in the rich repertoire of Djali music.
What is your opinion regarding experimenting kora with modern western instruments?

This is not a new direction in the way we play our traditional instruments. Playing music is like speaking an international language: you listen, you adapt and you gradually and surely come together. Without understanding Hindi, I am able to understand your music because we all search to know each other. In our music there are no borders that prevent us from exploring the unknown. In each music you will find something familiar.
Are the young generations taking interest in kora?

Yes, both my daughters want to learn to play the kora. And the young generation of musicians in Guinea also combines classical kora with modern rap. Before the kora was exclusively played for kings and high authorities, but today the kora has been set free and can be played in all contexts.
What is the basic theme of the songs you sing?

In each song I have a different theme but most of our songs are meant to honour our ancestors, to connect people or to give advice on good behaviour.
How was your experience performing in India?

I really liked playing my instrument with Indian musicians. I also liked the very positive feedback the Indian audience gave me. I liked the open attitude of the audience and their curiosity to learn about my instrument. I felt they also have no borders in music. I really hope I will have another occasion to play with Indian musicians to explore our common grounds and to see where our ensemble will take us.
What is your word of advice for aspiring kora player? 

What helped me a lot was that my family always told me to play with others, in different orchestras, and to search for new experiences. So my advice would be: first put your own love into your instrument and then take it into world to explore your possibilities. Be open and sociable and accept what others may give you.

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