Azeris too: all of them great and serious musicians, which more or less confirms the evolved consciousness of there being no such thing as 'world music', only 'world pop' and 'world classical'. Actually the inspirational Bassekou Kouyaté's ensemble of ngonis (West African boat-shaped lutes) and percussion, Ngoni Ba, crowned last night's late 'World Routes Prom' with a real pop festival to which those of us in the arena all danced or jigged around unselfconsciously (the band pictured above in the first of the irrepressible Chris Christodoulou's shots for the BBC, Bassekou in what looks like a bogolan design from Sophie's MaliMali workshop). Godson Alexander was down from Glasgow, so I think this was a good introduction to promming for him.
As I've written before, Bassekou is every inch as much a classical master of his craft as Lassana Diabaté, the balafonist pictured below on the left with the deliciously communicative lady they dub the 'Mahalia Jackson of Mali', Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, and Bassekou's youngest son Mamadou Kouyaté, who plays both in the first group of the evening, the Trio Da Kali, and Ngoni Ba.
All these names! But once you hear the sounds, they'll never be forgotten. The tone of the balafon, a very distinctive kind of bass xylophone, is something that went straight to our hearts in Vienna, when our widely-travelled friends Tommi and Martha - whom we met in Eritrea - took us to a heurigen to hear a fusion between another interpreter of this redoubtable instrument and a schrammel band of accordion and violins. Even then we didn't quite witness the kind of so-fast-you-can't-see-it strokes Lassana Diabaté wielded. Looking him up on YouTube introduced me to another divo, Kassy Madé Diabaté - relation to Hawa, presumably - and the young man who sings first is very fine, too. Couldn't download that one, for some reason - watch it here - but at least I can feature the balafon solo.
It was good to get the contexts of the songs and dances in the excellent programme; as I've written before, too much 'world music' can pass in a haze of uncomprehension. You'd probably have got the message that the Trio Da Kali's first number was a field-work song when Hawa Kassé took up a scythe and did an imaginary cropping dance around the stage. Then there are the recently-topical references to the violence of the Islamist extremists in the north. Ngoni Ba's 'Sinaly' is based on a song about a 19th century royal protester against Islamic oppression, and 'Ne me fatigue pas', as exuberant as the group's other three numbers, protests the problems of Malians at the time of the 2012 military coup.
'A single heart may share itself with a thousand people. Let's be friendly and mindful human beings, let's be friendly to each other'. That's the gist of Tasnif Mehriban Olaq by Azer(baijan)i composer Shafiqa Akhundova, who died last month, and it was another upbeat end to a generally more introspective sequence from the group gathered together by mugham singer Gochaq Askarov. Here, too, are masters of their art: not just Askarov with his highly inflected and ornamented poetics, but also Mirjavad Jafarov on tar and oud, Shirzad Fataliyev playing the double-reed balaban, veering from mellow to raucous, and violinistic microtonal refinement from Elnur Mikayilov (I liked, too, the unblinking seriousness of percussionist Kamran Kamirov on naghara).
Most touching, though, was the core of BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy's scheme to twin a maestro (in this case Askarov) or maestra with a young British-based immigrant musician. This was the beautiful 18 year old Fidan Hajiyeva with highlights in her long flowing hair, looking very apprehensive until she opened her mouth, and there was the soul of another true artist, uninhibited in the difficult coloratura. She didn't sing as much as Askarov, but her future looks bright. See how proudly and encouragingly Askarov looks at her below. Must be a nice man.
Today I wept at individual stories of dignified Syrian refugees on the BBC World Service's World Have Your Say, probably because it's been so hard to take in the scale of the chemical attacks, but I rejoiced at a Turkish reporter's news of how devout followers of Islam had joined hands in true brotherhood and sisterhood with gays, transexuals and political activists near Istanbul's Taksim Square. The good news of the Malian election, despite certain anomalies, should have made a bigger impact in the UK media than it did, and this concert was another symbol of closer understanding, how joy and humanity can connect us all.
In any case, the event doubled the evening's pleasure. In the night's first concert, which I've written up for The Arts Desk, spunky Yannick Nézet-Séguin twinkled and moued his way through much the best - by which I mean the most multi-faceted and the deepest - Prokofiev Fifth Symphony I've heard in concert.
And I've heard a lot - too many, I was thinking before the performance when I joined James Jolly and late lamented Noëlle's perfect successor at the now ill-starred Prokofiev Archive*, Fiona McKnight, for a 5.15 talk in the Royal College of Music.
James's chairing was very accomplished, especially in steering us back to base from a rather oblique question from a member of the audience, and Fiona impressed me by covering points that I'd just realised I'd missed. Where there's deep knowledge and love, the expression of both should flow freely. Anyway, a 20 minute version of our 45 minute chat was swiftly edited by Janet Tuppen and co - how do they do it? - in time for the interval broadcast. You can hear it here for nearly a week. Less pressingly, the Discovering Music I 'did' on the symphony is available long-term here. More important than either, watch the concert - well, at least the Tchaikovsky and the Prokofiev - while you can on the BBC Four iPlayer. You'll be entranced.
Only my pre-Prom duties brought us back from the Swedish wilderness, where we'd been blissed out by the simple life for the last three days of our three-centre (Stavanger, Lake Siljan, Särna) holiday. Had it not been for that and a few other commitments - those might have been shiftable - we would have ditched our £50 return flights from Stockholm and stayed on another week. While I hang fire downloading photos and writing up aspects, there's a bit about the final idyll on serendipitously-met friend Susannah Finch's blog. In which I am embarrassed to be cast as tough child of nature. I take the liberty of reproducing her husband Jamie's shot of a morning lake dip (for me one of five in varying places and temperatures).
We did indeed meet up with Sophie for our central sojourn in Dalarna. She'll be back in London to host us in her reclaimed Ladbroke Grove flat for a Notting Hill carnival afternoon. I hope we'll be able to listen to the Malian bits of the Prom then, too. Catch it now**, too, while you can, and dance.
18/7 Our wonderful godson departed yesterday, well satisfied, I think, with my Proms triple bill and with J's exhaustive London walking tour on Friday while I caught up with some work. He was regretful about the late announcement of a Saturday night gig with his band, Lieutenant Tango, in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, which meant he had to leave earlier than planned. The group really has something, as I wrote before: sunny, upbeat numbers with a lot of creativity (though Alexander wants to write meaningful lyrics rather than the nonsense sounds-good ones we've had so far). Having posted the infectious 'Charlie Brash', I now give you 'Geronimo':
*The news is it's moving from Goldsmiths College to Columbia University, New York, in a year or so. Nothing on earth, it seems, we faithful few can do about it.
**Radio only. My TAD colleague Peter Culshaw, who also reviewed the concert, has just written an excellent piece on how TV has failed so-called 'world music' here.