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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    Includes unlimited streaming of Sira via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Poster/Print

    Beautiful movie poster 27 x10" on heavy stock matte paper with the photography done by famous music image guru Youri Lenquette (Kurt Cobain, Bjork, Prince). Design by Becca Stevens.
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  • DVD

    “Senegalese kora and western trumpet make fabulous music together! Volker Goetze’s enthralling documentary melds dazzling visuals and haunting songs to serve up a feast for the senses. Griot introduces us to Goetze’s own soulful trumpet stylings and the extraordinary voice and calabash harp artistry of Ablaye Cissoko. "Africa is the spiritual centre of the Planet Earth," claims one of the many contributors to this enchanting film, and, given the evidence, it is a claim that becomes difficult to disprove.

    Ostensibly, Goetze’s documentary sets out to explore the history and role of the "griots" whose spiritual and musical talents are passed "through the blood" from generation to generation. Their role is many-faceted: historian, storyteller, praise-singer, poet and musician. Ablaye Cissoko, thinker, leader and gifted musician, is an examplar.

    The film has at least three elements that compel our attention and capture our minds and hearts: the outstanding music; the cinematography, which brings to life the vibrant colours of West Africa and the splendours of its natural life; and the almost hallucinatory animation which adds another texture to the music. In common with other exceptional documentaries, Griot amounts to more than the sum of its parts. It is a paean to the senses: at moments our eyes are dazzled by what we see, at others we can close them and just let the haunting music flow through us.”

    - Vancouver International Film Festival

    THE FILMMAKERS

    SAM POLLARD. Co-Producer/Post-production Supervisor. Multiple Emmy Award winning, Peabody Award winning and Academy Award Nominated producer and editor,best know for his work with Spike Lee on When the Levees Broke, Mike Tyson, 4 Little Girls, Mo’Better Blues and Jungle Fever. From time to time, Pollard serves on advisory committees for the National Endowment for the Humanities; National Endowment for the Arts; or the Independent Television Service (ITVS). The idea to have Sam Pollard on board existed already in the early stages of development of The Griot in late 2007. Not only is he one of the most respected documentary editor, Sam Pollard is able to present complex issues in a compelling way in films.

    VICTOR KANEFSKY. Co-Director/Editor. 58 years in film industry, Victor Kanefsky ran a film and video editing service that trained, among others, Sam Pollard. Cajun Jockey, Emmy Award; Our Latin Thing and Style Wars, both documentary classics; as well as Distant Harmony, Pavarotti in China; Adam Clayton Powell, Academy nominated; Our Latin Thing, Filmix Film Festival award winner; Ganja and Hess by Peter Gun, official selected at Cannes. Mr. Kanefsky is highly respected as having taught many of the best editors of today, still working and advising, he is the person Sam Pollard learned the trade of Editing from.
    LESLIE MULKEY (A.K.A. HOLCOMB REED). Writer. Film, video, NLE editor (Avid/Final Cut) with over 20 years in the business - worked for CBS News Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, ABC News 20/20. His experience at CBS enabled him to make editorial decisions, most of them making it to the final broadcast version.

    SANNE KURZ. Cinematographer. Civis International Media Award 2004; National Award for Female DPs – Section Feature Film 2009; Spotlight Commercial Film Festival with the TVC “Lefax Pups” directed by Satu Siegemund. Every Editor complemented the Senegalese footage she captured. Trained also as a documentary filmmaker.

    Joshue Ott. Visualist. Mr. Ott creates cinematic visual improvisations, performed live and projected in large scale. Working from hand-drawn forms manipulated in real-time with superDraw, a software instrument of his own design, Ott composes evolving images that reside somewhere between minimalism, psychedelia, and Cagean chance, delivered with an inescapably human touch.

    VOLKER GOETZE. Producer/Director. Award-winning musician, composer and producer and close friend of Ablaye Cissoko - they met in 2001 for the first time. Volker Goetze visited and performed many times in Senegal since 1996.

    TEAM OF HUMANITIES ADVISERS

    RANDY WESTON. ASCAP’s 2009 Living Jazz Legend. Pianist, composer, bandleader. Mr. Weston’s connection to Africa started as early as the sixties, being one of the first to move to Africa in the search of roots. Being a Jazz-legend and already having met Ablaye Cissoko at the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival in 2007 provides a very natural connection. From Wikipedia:
    After five decades devoted to music, Randy Weston remains one of the world's visionary pianists and composers, who continues to be an innovator and educator, touring throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe. In 2002 he performed with bassist James Lewis for the inauguration of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. That same year he performed with Gnawa musicians at Canterbury Cathedral at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He had the honor of playing at the Kamigamojinja Shrine in Japan in 2005. He has been the recipient of many international awards, including: in 1997 the French Order of Arts and Letters; in 1999 the Japan's Swing Journal Award; and in 2000 the Black Star Award from the Arts Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana.

    MAMADOU DIOUF. Ph.D. Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Director, Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, Professor of History. Professor Diouf’s current research topic is youth in colonial and postcolonial Africa, the topics which are touched in our documentary. Our team benefited from Senegalese background of Professor Diof.


    DIRECTOR’S BIOGRAPHY

    Volker Goetze is a German-born, New York-based trumpeter, composer, and filmmaker. He has performed and presented his work at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Merkin Hall, WDR Cologne, Gasteig Munich, Jazz-A-Vienne, Jazzhouse Copenhagen, World Festival of Sacred Music (Los Angeles) and the Opera Festival in Munich. His work fuels cross-cultural dialog, incorporates multiple disciplines and utilizes cutting edge technology. His recent compositions derive from folklore music, rock, jazz, contemporary music, classical as well as baroque music. In the recent years he has been investigating the oral culture and storytelling of West Africa and its influences on Jazz and Black Culture in America. GRIOT, a feature documentary about the oral music tradition in West Africa, is Volker Goetze's debut as a film director and has since developed into a multimedia performance symphony documentary. GRIOT screened at the Flaherty Film Seminar and opened in film festivals around the globe. Last year, GRIOT opened theatrically throughout Canada and further releases are scheduled in the US and Europe for Fall 2014.

    Besides maintaining a busy international concert schedule, Mr.Goetze has conducted master classes and has been featured as a panelist at the Apollo Theatre and New York Foundation for the Arts.

    DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

    The film is neither a traditional western documentary, as it does not settle for a conceptual understanding of our subject; nor is it simply a performance piece, as it does not settle for collecting powerful songs. This piece celebrates the art of the Griot - the art of the praise-singer and musical healer - by expanding the narrative through an interaction of poetry, music, song, stunning visuals and earthy sounds. Our stylistic approach taps into the very essence of the healing work of Ablaye Cissoko as a musician and activist in his home country Senegal. The approach is consonant with the life and history of Ablaye Cissoko himself. He descends from Kimitang Cissoko, the inventor of the kora, the African lute-harp. A genie directed him to build the first kora and the beautiful music he created with it lifted his people from their despair. Ablaye Cissokos music similarly has the power to heal broken people. His songs touch hearts and already reach far beyond the borders of West Africa.
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about

The mutual admiration society that is Volker Goetze and Ablaye Cissoko owes itself to a serendipitous meeting that took place in 2001 at the African-European Jazz Orchestra rehearsals in Saint-Louis, Senegal, where they’d been invited to open for Senegalese legend Youssou N’Dour. Despite any cultural barriers that separated them, the German-born trumpeter and the Senegalese kora player and singer discovered they had much in common, both musically and personally. Their commonalities can be heard on Sira, which is an album that reaffirms the maxim that music is the universal language. The album releases in October 2008 on ObliqSound.

“He comes from the griot tradition. My grandfathers were highly respected spiritual leaders,” says Goetze. “I learn from him and he learns from me. Our music is very much created in the moment, but we understand each other on a much deeper level.”

It was their willingness to absorb new ideas that attracted them to each other. Although Cissoko is well versed in the traditional music of West Africa, passed along from generation to generation, he has always been a seeker, keeping his ears open for new experiences. Despite his ties to West African traditional music, Cissoko is also a huge fan of jazz, and worked with pianist/composer Randy Weston and others prior to the project with Goetze. “My early influences,” he says, “come from Keith Jarrett, French saxophonist François Jeanneau, Asian and Senegalese music and, of course, Mandingue music, the music of my ancestors.”

His immersion in jazz, and Goetze’s fascination with African music, made them natural candidates for collaboration. “I was fortunate to have experienced some of the greatest innovators of jazz live in concert,” says Goetze, “like Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Wayne Shorter, the Gil Evans Big Band and Joe Henderson. They touched and moved me. That is what I am looking for in music, which is one reason I had to go to Africa. I also am a huge fan of Youssou N’Dour.”

Goetze, who has collaborated with some of the most important figures of the contemporary music scene, including Naná Vasconcelos, Craig Handy and Lenny Pickett, sees similarities between Cissoko’s griot tradition and that of jazz: “[Griot music] is not written; it changes with the epoch and the
performance, which is similar to jazz and improvisation.”

“It is our differences that become real strength,” adds Cissoko, who has released two previous solo albums, 2000’s Diam and 2006’s Le Griot Rouge, prior to the duo album Sira. “I adapt myself to the context. I have in myself this ancient tradition of communication. It’s like the branches of a baobob tree, which can touch those of another tree. I’m one of these branches. Volker and I are two musicians of the same generation with different sensibilities, who become one indivisible entity by speaking with our instruments.”

Legendary music photographer Youri Lenquette (Keith Richards, Kurt Cobain, Lou Reed, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley) captured Cissoko and Goetze in Senegal in an extraordinary photo-shoot during the recording of the album. The most striking images will be included in Sira’s album packaging and the iTunes digital booklet. Music videos, selected photos and audio snippets will be available for exploration on www.volkergoetze.com.

credits

released October 8, 2008

Produced by Volker Goetze

Ablaye Cissoko (Senegal) Kora, Voc. Volker Goetze (NYC) Trumpet, Flugelhorn

It would seem that a Senegalese griot singer who plays the traditional West African 21-stringed kora would have little to discuss musically with a German-born, New York-based jazz trumpeter. But today's cross-cultural fusions often transcend both geography and genre, and whether it was fate or design that brought together Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze, it is we who are the beneficiaries. Sira, which translates to mermaid and is the name of Cissoko's youngest daughter, is a demonstration of single-mindedness among two artists and a statement of respect between world-class musicians. Ablaye, who comes from a centuries-long line of griots, or storytellers, is a master of intricate, lyrical string work and a vocalist whose deep emotionalism is conveyed in each line he sings. Volker is an accomplished trumpeter who has collaborated with some of the most important figures of the con- temporary scene. Both are composers with an ear toward the future as well as the past.


“A quiet gem!” Siddhartha Mitter, Boston Globe (USA)

“Nominated for best traditional song“ 9th Annual Independent Music Awards (USA)

“#2 Album“ College Music Journal (CMJ), World Music Chart (USA)

“A breath of fresh air, Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze's Sira provides an oasis of calm in which to pause and rest, to reflect and be moved...to tears.“ All About Jazz (USA)

4 stars! “A real late-night beauty...More than a sum of its parts, a conjoining of talents that brings real magic.” All Music Guide

“The music on this album is a revelation.” Songlines (UK)

“A musical dialogue full of mutual listening and shared trust.”
Radio France International (France)

5 stars! “Their effortless conversation, between echoes of tradition and invented vocabulary, both soothes and thrills.” Mondomix (France)

4 Stars! “Recorded in Senegal as a duet, Sira marks a true meeting of the minds. 10 delicate titles, a hymn to simplicity and to the universality of music. Beautiful.” Jazzman (France)

“What’s unusual is not so much the combination of instruments, but the way in which these two musicians of clearly different backgrounds have created quite a distinct sound. The album is a wonderful collaboration of cultures and language.” BBC World on 3 (UK)

“A captivating intercontinental exchange.” Vibrations (UK)

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Volker Goetze New York, New York

Multimedia Artist Volker Goetze is a New York-based trumpeter, composer, and filmmaker. He performed and presented his work at leading venues and international festivals such as the Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, West German Radio Station (WDR Cologne), World festival of Sacred Music (Los Angeles) and the Opera Festival in Munich. ... more

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