LEGENDS:- The incredible Lamin Saho: A Kora Genius
Friday, May 10, 2013
Lamin Saho, son of the late great kora player and griot, Yankuba Saho, is one of The Gambia’s’ most profound kora players who emerged in the late 90s when he was featured live on TV (GRTS) in an amazing performance alongside a band he newly formed. He has since established himself as a professional artiste and has produced an amazing list of hit songs and albums that are enjoyed by most Gambians who love and celebrate traditional Gambian music and culture. Jali Lamin Saho is a kora player, vocalist and the leader of the band "Roots and Culture."
Lamin started to play the kora at the age of eight through lectures given to him by his father. He grew up in Dankunku in the interior of the country, but pursued his education in Sukuta, West Coast Region He's now living in Bijilo and travels to different towns and cities to play musi. Lamin also travelled to many European countries. His exceptional understanding of vocal technique enables him to explore all the nuances from the long graceful slides of “Tomoro” (kora scale) to the quick multi-tempo vibrato ornaments of Yeyengo.
Lamin studied percussion before he ever picked up another instrument, and percussion players often speak admiringly of his dazzling use of rhythm. \
“When he plays ‘Briminting’ (a kora Solo), he seems to be playing the kora as if it were a percussion with the single notes acting as the dun dun (bass drum) and the chords acting as the Sewruba (Mandingo treble drum),” said Ifangbondi's percussion player Karamo Sabally.
“I’ve heard him play three measures of four in the melody strings, while simultaneously playing four measures of three in the strings. And because he was playing both parts with a triplet on each beat of the “Barawula” cycle, it all fit perfectly over one measure of slow Syllaba. No one else can do that on a melody instrument,” said Sabally.
But this virtuosity did not come easily, even though his father used this same techniques on most of his compositions. And one must admit that he got very similar results. Lamin started studying vocals and kora as a boy with band leader dad and authentic griot. Lamin once told a journalist: “I hardly ever played outside, never had a normal childhood besides playing music. Till today my father has never told me what he thinks of my playing or that he is proud of me. … He probably felt it would go to my head.”
His breakthrough was in the early '90's while he was performing on GRTS and gave away a fabulous show. Nowadays you'll still see Lamin on GRTS with his band, and he's performing with a lot of famous Gambian and Senegalese artistes in The Gambia and in Holland.
There are many intricacies in Lamin’s playing that are not present in many kora players including a strong influence from classical Manding scales and rhythms. But that is only because Lamin Saho was able to absorb Ifangbondi from his dad’s innovations and then ask; “Where do we go from here?” If you have a Dad Afro rock Band leader with Manding Kekefa and a figure head in one of Africa’s greatest bands in your house, Lamin could be his best introduction to kora music. Lamin Saho can play as fast as Lalo Kebba Drammeh (kora guru) or Sounjulu Cissoko (kora genius), and faster than any other kora player I have heard recently—when it is appropriate for him to do so.
On this very moment Lamin is one of the hottest kora players with a lot of talent. He's a professional musician and the intention to keep the traditional Mandinka-kora music alive. Most players mark the opening section of the pick in less than a minute, and then go on to finger slam and flow for extended development. Lamin can spend as much as six minutes on these opening three notes, carefully exploring every color and nuance that can mark them. It is often said that his vocal style emphasizes the left hand (for bending and pulling strings) and the instrumental style emphasizes the right hand for (plucking and trills). Lamin’s command of both styles enables him to make a small number of pitches to tell a vast variety of stories by exploring numerous combinations of all of these techniques.
Lamin Saho’s style is rooted primarily in the Yeyengo style. His father and his kora are a modification of a brighter upper range style, without the bass-notes of Sounjulu Cissoko. He has also customized his own kora even further in the same direction as Late Yankuba (Dad). Now he makes a trademark – Lamin Saho -style kora designedto simulate vocal ornaments.
“If an artiste can stay humble and focus only on his art, he rises way beyond his talent and his craft. … Whatever I have learnt is so miniscule compared to what I still feel I have to learn that I see nothing to be arrogant about.” “The music as a reflection of our emotion is our way of communication and love with the universe”
Author: Oko Drammeh