Senegalese kora and western trumpet make fabulous music together! Volker Goetze’s enthralling documentary melds dazzling visuals and haunting songs to serve up a feast for the senses. Griot introduces us to Goetze’s own soulful trumpet stylings and the extraordinary voice and calabash harp artistry of Ablaye Cissoko. "Africa is the spiritual centre of the Planet Earth," claims one of the many contributors to this enchanting film, and, given the evidence, it is a claim that becomes difficult to disprove.
Ostensibly, Goetze’s documentary sets out to explore the history and role of the "griots" whose spiritual and musical talents are passed "through the blood" from generation to generation. Their role is many-faceted: historian, storyteller, praise-singer, poet and musician. Ablaye Cissoko, thinker, leader and gifted musician, is an examplar.
The film has at least three elements that compel our attention and capture our minds and hearts: the outstanding music; the cinematography, which brings to life the vibrant colours of West Africa and the splendours of its natural life; and the almost hallucinatory animation which adds another texture to the music. In common with other exceptional documentaries, Griot amounts to more than the sum of its parts. It is a paean to the senses: at moments our eyes are dazzled by what we see, at others we can close them and just let the haunting music flow through us.
The film is neither a traditional western documentary, as it does not settle for a conceptual understanding of our subject; nor is it simply a performance piece, as it does not settle for collecting powerful songs. This piece celebrates the art of the Griot - the art of the praise-singer and musical healer - by expanding the narrative through an interaction of poetry, music, song, stunning visuals and earthy sounds. Our stylistic approach taps into the very essence of the healing work of Ablaye Cissoko as a musician and activist in his home country Senegal. The approach is consonant with the life and history of Ablaye Cissoko himself. He descends from Kimitang Cissoko, the inventor of the kora, the African lute-harp. A genie directed him to build the first kora and the beautiful music he created with it lifted his people from their despair. Ablaye Cissokos music similarly has the power to heal broken people. His songs touch hearts and already reach far beyond the borders of West Africa.
Country of Origin: USA, France, Germany, Senegal
"Stunning… beautiful." Globe & Mail