From the recording Routes
Diali Keba Cissokho - Kora, Lead Vocals | John Westmoreland - Electric Guitar | Jonathan Henderson - Bass | Austin McCall - Drum Kit | Will Ridenour - Djembe | Alan Thompson - Alto Saxophone | Ablaye Daffé, Ablaye Cissokho, Mamadou Cissokho, Abdou Ndiaye, Bayemor Mbaye - Soruba, Sabar | Yaye Boye, Yande, Ndai Mbaye - Vocals | Jennifer Curtis - 1st Violin | Elizabeth Phelps - 2nd Violin | Suzanne Rousso - Viola | Paula Peroutka - Cello | Jonathan Henderson - String Arrangement | Jason Richmond - North Carolina Cicadas and M’bour Fish Market Field Recordings
One of the most widely-played pieces in the traditional kora repertoire, Alla L’a Ke has a deep history among the Mande ethnic groups. It’s often the first piece taught to young kora students. My late father, Ibrahima Cissokho, taught me this song is like school for a kora player. It teaches the alphabet of the kora and how to speak its language. When I hear this song I think about my father, who often said, “This is the number one song! Keep it close.” In this version of Alla L’a Ke, I sing about my profound disbelief when he passed away. When he died I was so surprised, but I realized I had to accept it. L’homme propose, Dieu dispose, as they say: No matter what a person wants, it’s God who decides what happens.
A person can choose / but God’s decision is everything / nobody can undo it / my father has passed away / it can’t be taken back / God, you have surprised me / I didn’t know you could do this to me / but Father, I’m back / I’m back playing Alla L’a Ke for you / come back! / I’m singing to the Cissokhos / everybody clap your hands / today is gonna be a beautiful day