Constantinople and Ablaye Cissoko
At the crossroads of genres and eras may be found the Constantinople trio. Of course, the former Turkish capital, spanning East and West, is an inspiration for the Montréal-based group. But the very idea of blending is what the group embodies to perfection.
After 20 years on the road and nearly as many albums, the group, formed in 1998, continues its musical explorations. Iranian founder Kiya Tabassian accompanies himself on the setar (“three strings” in Persian). His vocals blend elegantly with the percussions of his brother, Ziya Tabassian (replaced more recently by Montréal percussionist Patrick Graham) and the viola da gamba (an ancestor of the cello) of Pierre-Yves Martel.
The Tabassian brothers arrived in Québec as teenagers but never forgot their training in Persian music. Their Oriental phrasing is interwoven with the kora of Senegalese griot Ablaye Cissoko, with whom they have presented more than 100 concerts and recorded two albums, Jardins migrateurs (2015) and Traversées (2019).
The fusion between the mysticism of the African desert and the poets of the former Persian empires comes across as natural. Based in Saint-Louis, a pretty colonial city located on the shores of the Senegal River, known for its abundance of fish, Ablaye Cissoko is a direct heir to Mandinka griots. He began playing the kora at age 8 and soon brought in outside musical influences, participating in the Festival international de Jazz de Saint-Louis. Since 1986, he has travelled around the world to pursue various collaborations, in particular with New York-based German trumpeter Volker Goetze and his own Senegalese ensemble, Corda Ba.
Together, the four musicians delicately bring together the melodies and inspiration of East and West, of Africa and Europe, in a breathtakingly beautiful show.