Touki is an Afro blues musician from Senegal.

Life embarked them on different touki (journey in Wolof, Amadou’s mother tongue), but with the recent support of an Arts Council of England grant, Amadou and Cory have been able to see their seedling shoot up into the light. Rehearsals in Paris led to a recording at Real World Studios in Wiltshire. 13 tracks were recorded in two long studio days, followed by two additional days putting final touches on the album at producer Oscar Cainer’s studio in north London.

The new album is entitled Right of Passage, a play on words that has multiple layers of meaning for Amadou and Cory. It alludes to the arduous journey millions embark on to better their lot in these times of hard borders and tall walls (including Amadou’s own difficult passage in the UK), and how people undergo various rites of passage while doing so. It also reflects the more personal musical journeys that Amadou and Cory have been experiencing both together and individually as outliers in their fields.

Despite coming from a griot family of percussionists and praise singers in the Dakar area, Amadou is not your ordinary griot. Though he draws heavily on the traditional music and rhythms of West Africa, since moving to England he has been busy forging his own musical identity as a singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. A self-taught kora player - he was prohibited from learning the instrument in Senegal because he did not descend from a line of kora players - and guitarist, he has developed a unique and intricate style to accompany his powerful, rich, high-pitched voice, drawing on his skills as a percussionist. Amadou is a true natural who genuinely loves learning, playing and performing music, delighting in the rhythmic possibilities within the melodies he composes.

Cory, a French-American musician raised in the US and currently based in Paris, casts a large musical net. A fingerstyle guitarist and clawhammer banjoist, numerous travels and encounters inspired him to tweak and develop his sound. The discovery of African finger style techniques coupled with trips to different African countries (including a three and half year stint in Ethiopia) changed everything. His style became more and more syncopated, polyrhythmic, and cross-pollinated, and his approach less and less academic. After 10 years on the road with Groanbox and other projects including Damakase, an Ethio-groove band, Cory is still ardently focused on creating new, highly original, hybrid music, as evinced by his solo material and of course Touki.

As a result, this album is not some producer-driven collaboration, but the original fruit borne of a genuine dream to communicate curiosity and bring different worlds together through music. Here the kora dances playfully with and around the banjo and the guitar, the calabash and other percussion add powerful, driving beats, and silky voices entrance the listener. The influences are many, and rather than remaining in any one tradition, the touki - the musical voyage itself - is the destination.

SNDakar, Senegal
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Cory Seznec

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