Bargaining in a bazaar is as much a social exchange as an economic enterprise. Whether one enjoys the experience or not depends upon how one views the basic premise.
The same could be said of Saturday night's concert, given in the Baird Auditorium, of music from Mali by kora player Batourou Sekou Kouyate, and two singers. For many, including native Africans and ex-Peace Corps members, the evening was a memorable social as well as musical experience. Those unfamiliar with the Mali culture and language ware apt to grow restless with the music's narrow range and repetitive nature.
The kora, a 21-string harp fastened to a large gourd, which serves as a resonance chamber, is plucked with only the thumb and first finger of each hand. To hold the instrument in place between the player's legs the other fingers are wrapped around small wooden poles set on either side of the kora.
Of the three solo kora pieces "Allah L'a Ke," a song praising Allah (and, incidentally, Radio Guinea's theme song), most effectively revealed Kouyate's rhythmic flair and lyrical style.
The Mali vocal style shows strong Arabic influence in its nasal quality and free, florid lines. The singers, Kouyate's wife and cousin, had a warm, appealing manner. Apparently, they improvised effectively in their addresses to various members of the audience, who were prompted - as is the Mali custom - to shower the performers with gifts ranging from money to a luscious-looking pineapple.