We are David Mowat, project director trumpeter and writer/producer, Emmy Broughton concert harpist, Federico Leonori jazz bassist and Paolo Adamo jazz and African drummer. David Paolo and Federico are members of long-established world jazz outfit BEJE. We're joined by Moussa Kouyate on kora and a younger Griot kinsman Suntou Susso on djembe. Jimi Can joins the team for his knowledge of fusion etween western musical idioms and West African styles.
We'd love you to join us by buying an album (or two or three) before we're in the recording studio in July, helping us to fund it. You'll then receive your album, as a download or physically in the post. Or by hand if we're gigging by then!
Why are we making an album?
This project comes out of a 10-year collaboration between Moussa Kouyate and David Mowat. As pandemic hit and other projects folded, a chance opportunity afforded by the Arts Council -funded Bristol Refugee Festival in June 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcX_9Fi9VBMbrought them together and the idea was born to explore Moussa's distinctive voice and place in Bristol, and weave in a recent collaboration with harpist Emmy and David's long-term BEJE jazz project with its internationalist focus.
There's a scandal here too. Moussa has not had status in this country for the past 12 years or more. It's his 2nd home. There were visa issues many years ago and he's had the tenacity to carry on, fighting off deportation 11 years ago as he loves this city and has built a supportive community here. But it's tough. Moussa, in common with asylum seekers who had their cases turned down, is not allowed to work or to have access to public funds. And an arm fracture and then the pandemic denied him his one source of income, earning through his immense skill, through busking.
By succeeding with album sales we can ensure that Moussa is rewarded as much as possible, whilst we work on his legal status. So the more you help, the more Moussa will be helped.
What's our aim?
To create a beautiful album marking Moussa’s later-life identity as a Bristol Griot (or jali from Mandinga language), distinct from his traditional West African role in a lineage of griots to the Mandinga Kings. We'll examine and celebrate in spoken poetry his story and relationship to two neighbourhoods where he's made his mark as street musician and talismanic presence, the Bristol harbourside and Bedminster. The music will draw especially from the Malian kora tradition under Moussa's directions, and feature his compositions, with a twist of contemporary jazz.
What are our objectives?
• to revive Moussa's career through a great album that builds a youth fan base and gets great press.
• for Moussa to mentor harpist Emmy in kora styles and comping so she expands her knowledge beyond western-classical and folk traditions.
• to support the development of the youth-focussed social enterprise in Bedminster, for whom Moussa is 'godfather', known as The Sanctuary by placing this project under its co-direction, to build its experience and profile. Jack Jones, a co-director is a graphic artist and will lead on album art work. The Sanctuary themselves are having to relocate as pandemic lifts and their warehouse-landlord looks for a new tenant with deeper pockets. But they're committed to carrying on supporting Moussa. In the cover picture are Louis, George, Ben, Jack and Kieran. Ben is Moussa s sound engineer.
• to collect stories and to create a ‘beat-poetry’ style story of Moussa’s life since he made his home in Bristol, re-fashioning the concept of griot to fit his reality. To perform this poetry with the music.
• to further the talents of a performance-poet from the Bristol refugee community if possible. That's where we'll look first.
• to further the development of BEJE as a contemporary jazz ensemble exploring idioms new to the band whilst working with international musicians who come to Bristol.