the project

Although world music has become very popular in recent years, flutist and composer Paul Horn has been pursuing his own personal vision of world music for three decades. In his new album Africa, Paul Horn combines his lyrical flute and saxophone playing with the traditional sounds of West African drums, voices, and strings. The album features the Guinean master musician Sékou Camara Cobra, as well as two of his French-Canadian students. Sékou performs on guitar and numerous traditional West African drums, and sings in two languages, Malinke and Susu. Although the pieces are all original compositions by Sékou, they fall squarely in the ancient tradition of the West African griot. The griots were the hereditary minstrels and storytellers of West Africa; Sékou was born into a griot family of the famous Mandingo tradition.

Already a compelling mixture of Western and West African music, Africa is also a seamless blend of old and new. The use of the flute and guitar is not traditional, but has become more common in West African music of this century. Horn's flute and Sékou's guitar clearly echo the sounds of griot instruments like the folk harp and the lute, and these original compositions are built around traditional Guinean rhythms and stories.

The mood of this recording varies widely, from the joyous, swinging rhythms of Kassa (based on a Malinke rhythm used in working the fields) to the lovely harp-like guitar playing on the ballad Dounya. In addition to the obvious talents of Paul Horn and Sékou Camara Cobra, both Francine Martel and Nathalie Dussault add their voices and the sounds of the kora (lute-harp) and djembé (talking drum).

Tragically, this recording was completed just two months before Sékou Camara Cobra's death.

the artist

Paul Horn has performed on every inhabited continent of the world, and has also traveled extensively between musical traditions. He has recorded classic albums with some of America's greatest jazz masters (Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, etc.); ground-breaking records with some of the greatest musicians in Brazil, Japan, and India; and of course the legendary Inside series of improvisations, done in the Great Pyramid, the Taj Mahal, and other historic locations.

Before his death in November of 1993, Sékou Camara Cobra was a noted griot on his own and also a part of the famous troupe Africa Oye. Born in Guinea, he lived in the Ivory Coast since 1980, and was a master acrobat, choreographer, and composer. He played virtually all of the major percussion instruments of West Africa, in addition to guitar.