Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 7:30PM - Christ Church Cathedral




Constantinople, ensemble

Kiya Tabassian, dir.

Ablaye Cissoko, kora

From the 12th century up to today, the Griots, known as “the Bards of West Africa”, have transmitted their music and knowledge from generation to generation through a sophisticated and unbroken oral tradition. This concert explores the epics of the Mandinka Kingdom, together with the griot master of the kora, Ablaye Cissoko. Montreal’s Ensemble Constantinople will support Cissoko to create a cosmopolitan sound that blends West Africa with Persia.


“In these restless times of ours, the work is rooted and minimalist in aspiration, conveying a sense of effortless invention grounded in unassuming technical mastery, patient listening and an egalitarian spirit that, embracing humankind in its multiplicity, is conducive to the sublime."

Roots World Magazine


RÊVERIES - Kiya Tabassian

MARYAMA - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

DENKILO - Ablaye Cissoko 

VERS ISFAHAN - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

TRAVERSÉES  - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

SIRIFO - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

DÉPARTS - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

KAILEN - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

RECERCADA QUINTA - Diego Ortiz (1510-1570) 

DJOTNA - Ablaye Cissoko 

TAMALÀ - Kiya Tabassian / Ablaye Cissoko 

SERIGNE BI SIGNARE - Ablaye Cissoko 

ALKALO - Ablaye Cissoko



“My garden is my work. My memory is the soil of my garden, which grows in this earth, spreads its roots and penetrates the soil to go elsewhere, to unite with the universe.” Kiya Tabassian

Everywhere, from time immemorial, the Word has been embodied by the bard, the troubadour, the griot. These wordsmiths, at once messengers and peacemakers, are the links with the forces of nature, the inexpressible divine, the memory of the ancients. It falls to them to maintain the realm of the collective soul.

Nowadays, these freethinkers and travellers are making the world their garden… Like Constantinople’s musicians and Ablaye Cissoko, griot from Saint-Louis, Senegal, all eternally migrating birds. This meeting between Ablaye and Constantinople, between strings and vocals, goes back in time to evoke the beauty of being. It is a joint passage through the common sites of the imagination, like a long breath before the inexorable march of the world and time. 

From the start, this dialogue between the kora and the setar seemed to come from the depths of the earth, as though these instruments, along with the viola da gamba and percussion, had always existed side by side. This natural symbiosis gave us wings to fly towards distant horizons, and our music has been heard over one hundred times in various festivals and halls around the world.

This exceptional harmony that exists today between our music and our selves has allowed us to create works inspired by our inner gardens and shared voyages, which we present to you with this concert.



Denkilo means song – of humankind, of animals, of nature. Song carried by griots, according to the role conferred on them and which they will, in turn, confer. A song of unimaginable power, that sometimes overcomes even the griots themselves. A song that awakens the spirit to those truths that we already know, but that we are often too deeply asleep to recognize..




Maryama is beauty, kindness, generosity, and hospitality. It is a woman with so many qualities as to be indescribable. Always ready to welcome, and in whom there is neither suffering, nor anger.

I would wish for Maryama as my mother, my spouse, my sister, my daughter... But I do not think many people like her exist. So, I wish at least that each of these women mentioned could have Maryama as a friend.




Inhabitants of the same village or country share certain figures of reference, extraordinary characters, assurers of social stability in whom they have unlimited confidence. Then come periods of demise, when all these leaders suddenly pass on, when worry and doubt take root. Departures during which everyone feels lost and wonders: is the next generation ready? What will this next generation be? And most of all, will it be worthy?

Echoing these words of Ablaye, the great poet Amir Khosrow (1253-1325), sung by Kiya, laments the departure of his loved ones and asks the new buds of springtime to give him news of his friends who have returned to the earth.


KAILEN  « Come » (in Wolof)

Kailen is a call to assembly: “Come. Let us love each other. And let this love be sincere. Let us speak with one voice, let us rise together. It is in unity that we will accomplish social peace and move things forward for our country.”


DJOTNA « It is time » (in Wolof)

Billions could rain down on Africa, but it would not necessarily become developed. For the development and true wealth of a nation comes first from the education of its children. As major projects and investments are multiplying on the continent, it is time to demand quality public schools to which all our children will have equal access.



Some village women, despite their hands damaged by hard daily labour, are as beautiful as Signares, those elegant ladies of St. Louis. Yet, their external beauty hides a great internal suffering, for tradition forces them to marry men who take advantage of their goodness and give them nothing in return. Men whom they nonetheless treat with great respect, and go so far as to put on pedestals by calling them “Serigne-bi”, a title for the descendants of spiritual guides respected for their knowledge and teaching.




The alkalo is the judge found within each of us. The one who can separate reasoning of the mind from reasoning of the heart. The one who knows how to listen, welcome, and accept facts whatever they may be, and come down on the side of truth. It is not granted to everyone to be a good alkalo, but this piece is for those who have faith in a truth that will always triumph.


Tickets for the September 25 Mandinka Pilgrimage concert happening at Christ Church Cathedral can be purchased:


To purchase a ticket for the September 24 livestreamed concert, click here. (This performance takes place at the Kay Meek Arts Centre in West Vancouver)


Parking Information

The Cathedral is located on Quadra Street at Rockland Avenue. 

Street parking is available on Quadra Street, Burdett Avenue, and Rockland Avenue, as well as at the south entrance to the Cathedral off Burdett.