The role of the local musician in Senegal still holds a great deal of power and purpose, bringing people together, sharing news, and always a part of major life celebrations. Ablaye Cissoko, subject of German trumpeter, frequent collaborator, and filmmaker Volker Goetze’s documentary Griot, crafts stirring, meaningful, and meditative reflections on day to day life for average people who still use music as a reverential bridge to the things they hold important in their daily lives. He’s a town crier, historian, composer, and troubadour in a country where music not only matters, but is still an intricate part of everyday life.
Cissoko holds the film’s titular position, a soulful singer musician tasked with keeping oral tradition alive through a blend of traditional storytelling and original material. He goes to baptismals, weddings, engagements, funerals, and any other major life event where his presence is requested to give reverence to those involved and to spread a kind of positivity around. In Ablaye’s own words, he’s there to make people see reason. He’s one of the most respected members of his community, and part of a heritage that suggests music has always been in his blood and it was never a question this would be his ultimate profession. Playing a sort of harp, guitar, and percussion-like hybrid known as a kora, Cissoko has not only established himself as a vital voice for his people, but has also collaborated with Goetze on two jazz albums and several world tours.
A labour of love for Goetze filmed over the past eight years and across his travels around the world and spending a great deal of time with Cissoko in his own village back home, the film does a great job underlining the importance of music in everyday life, something a lot of people in many societies take for granted. While the collaboration and friendship between Ablaye and Volker gets discussed and looked at, it largely and wisely takes a backseat to talk about the role of musicians in societal roles that still matter.
Besides, what truly matters is the actual music being made and the duo’s collaboration on the album Amanke Dionti is what’s truly beautiful and ultimately what brings them to Canada for a cross country tour kicking off this week in Toronto at The Royal. Together they craft a type of jazz that injects a more than healthy dose of storytelling that the genre genuinely misses. In many ways, it might be actually preferable to hear or see the pair perform before going into the film. One will easily be disarmed and taken aback by the beauty of the music, even fans of the genre and those familiar with the type of storytelling in play.
Griot opens at Toronto’s Royal Cinema on Friday October 25th for a theatrical engagement, following a performance there on Thursday the 24th from Goetze and Cissoko. From there, they embark on a tour of the following cities throughout October and November in support of the film:
Sunday, October 27th, 7:30 p.m. (Tickets $35.00 General seating)
The Chrysalids Theatre, 137 Ontario St. N
Film screenings- Oct. 26-27th
Tuesday, October 29th, 8:00 p.m. (Tickets $35.00 General seating)
Gordon Best Theatre, 216 Hunter St. W
Friday, November 1st, 8:00 p.m. (Tickets $52.50-$62.50)
1248 Rue Bernard O.
514 495 9944
Film Screenings: Starts November 1st Cinema Du Parc, Montreal QC
Monday, November 4th, 7:30 p.m. ($35.00 General seating)
715 Broadway Ave.
Film screenings: November 1st – Broadway Theatre, Saskatoon SK
Wednesday, November 6th, 9:00 p.m. ($35.00 General seating)
The Plaza Theatre
1133 Kensington Rd NW
Film Screenings: Starts November 8th The Plaza Theatre, Calgary, AB
Saturday, November 9th, 9:00 p.m. ($35.00 General seating)
Sunday, November 10th, 2:00 p.m. ($35.00 General Seating, $25.00 for under 25 Matinee special)
1181 Seymour St.
Film Screenings: Starts November 8th – Vancity Theatre, Vancouver BC