Solo Acoustic Guitarist | African and Contemporary | Composer and Performer

African Guitar

I now offer Skype lessons in the unique style of African guitar that you can hear on One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Malimy album of solo guitar transcriptions of music by Toumani Diabaté, Ali Farka Touré and Ballaké Sissoko. I will guide you through the pieces on this album step by step, using my Montessori Guitar Method, which incorporates aspects of Montessori Methodology with traditional African learning techniques. You will slowly develop a language in each of these pieces and be able to improvise your own versions. If you are a beginner this repertoire will provide you with a wonderful way to learn the guitar. If you are an advanced player I can help you develop this exciting new African guitar repertoire. Drop me an email to book a slot: derek@derekgripper.com or see here for fees.

Toumani Diabate

I have been transcribing Malian kora master Toumani Diabate’s complete solo works for some years now. The collection of completed scores is now about sixty pages of guitar tablatures. I have also made versions for harp which could be adapted for piano. These can be purchased as PDFs from the Toumani Diabate scores page. The seven scores can be heard on my 2012 recording, One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali.

Or start learning with the introductory books here

Ali Farka Touré

Ali Farka Toure’s guitar music is a classic of West African guitar. Rich, original, and direct. My project to transcribe his music for solo guitar has resulted in a few recordings of his works (One Night on Earth) as well as a few scores.

Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal

My transcriptions of Ballaké Sissoko began with his collaboration with the French cellist Vincent Segal. Two of the pieces from this wonderful collaboration have been transcribed for solo guitar and will be available soon in PDF guitar tablature.

I also have scores and lessons based on the music of Boubacar Traoré.

 

Here’s a little musing on this new direction for African music:

Just one answer to the question “Why play/record this music when you can hear the ‘original’ recording?”

Scoring African Music for Guitar

The only difference between the music of Bach and the music of Toumani Diabaté is that Toumani’s music does not exist in the type of score format that allows another musicians to actually play the music themselves. Bach’s music has come down to us in the form of scores, some hand written by Bach himself, which give indications to a musician on how to make the sounds that Bach had in mind. The Manuscript Score is a very broad form of score as its range of possibilities is rather wide.

From Vihuela Tablatures to the Composer

Similarly the old vihuela music from the 1500’s was published in beautiful tablatures that represented the six “courses” of strings on the vihuela as horizontal lines and the frets of each strings as numbers placed on these lines.

In the times before recording these published scores of the music by the vihuela composers of Spain were disseminated throughout Europe, in editions of thousands of copies. This was the way to share music. It is incredible to think that human beings have made this way of sharing musical thoughts, just on a piece of paper. You put the piece of paper in front of somebody with the an instrument and the ability to read the map, and voila! the music is heard. And the beauty of this system is that there is no “definitive” version of the piece. the piece exists in a realm of possibility.

Manuscript Scores eventually went beyond just a means of sharing music. Reading these scores became a whole tradition in itself, called “interpretation” and this tradition became more and more a part of European musical life and generated that dubious character called “The Composer.”

Recording

Today the recording has become the primary means of disseminating music, although Manuscript Scores of all types are still very popular and widely shared in various ways. So the realm of possibility has narrowed slightly: the differences between one person’s “performance” of the work (now digitally reproduced as a Digital Score) and another’s is merely due to the kind of music system they play it on, when they choose to play it, how loud they put the volume, their own subjective reaction to the music…the list is also long, of course.

Today a “Composer” can generate a Manuscript Score AND oversee the making of the Digital Score, thus ensuring the “ideal” vision of his or her work. But I would argue that this misses the point somewhat. Personally I think that the whole beauty of a work of art is in its indeterminacy, the chance aspects of how it will be played, viewed, listened to etc. Imagine having Monet behind you demanding a particular interpretation of Woman with a Parasol

Griots

The kora music of the Mandé people of West Africa has been shared person to person in a kind of direct transmission. The Griot people have a whole social structure that guards and passes on this tradition and its music.

Sidiki Diabaté

Toumani Diabaté’s father, Sidiki Diabaté was one of the first kora players to release a recording. So for the first time kora music was shared in a way similar to the old vihuela scores, or Bach’s music. So there are now “scores” of kora music in the form of recordings of the actual sound of individual performers: Digital Scores. The possibilities of these scores are not as subtle and diverse as the scores of 500 years ago, the Manuscript Scores of the “composers” of Europe, but these new scores can be turned into music in the same way (in this case just by pressing a few buttons).

We could argue that this has had a good or negative effect on the traditional means of sharing and passing down Mandé music. But what it does mean is that the sphere of influence of this music has widened to cover the globe. Today I am just as likely to be “influenced” by the Manuscript Scores of musicians from Renaissance Spain as I am by the recordings of the contemporary griots of West Africa.

My response to all of this has been to create Manuscript Scores from the recordings of Mandé musicians so that this music can be played by guitarists. I have used the format passed down from the vihuela masters, just as Sidiki used the format of the modern recording engineers to create his own score. My hope is that this score will enlarge the realm of possibility once more, because low-tech can be a wonderful thing.