It took Derek Gripper untold hours of painstaking work to transcribe note-for-note the complex compositions of Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté and find a way of playing them on classical six-string guitar. The results appeared on his ninth album, One Night on Earth, marking a meeting point of the written tradition of Western classical music and the oral tradition of the West African griots.
Before this work the music of the kora was confined to the kora. Since Derek’s work there is now a large repertoire of African classical music for the classical guitar. And the compositions of the kora have found a new place to be heard.
Critical acclaim was quick to follow. Classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it” and Toumani Diabaté himself asked for confirmation that it was indeed just one person playing one guitar. Both immediately invited Derek to collaborate with them, Williams at three different concerts in London, and Diabaté at the Acoustik Festival Bamako, Mali.
Derek continues his inspired interpretations of West African composers on Libraries on Fire which won a Songlines Award for Best African and Middle Eastern Album for 2017 and his in-studio free improvisations (25 Minutes in North Vancouver and The CNN Session) which blend his mastery of Malian music with contemporary improvisation.
Derek' has also recorded Bach's solo violin works, transcribed for guitar, showing us what Bach would sound like if played by a musician trained in the griot tradition.