Tears for a Broken Kora: American customs breaks the Kora of Ballaké Sissoko
Lucy Duran for Mali Tribune, 8 Feb 2020
Last Tuesday, February 4, 2020, Ballaké Sissoko, one of the most remarkable African artists, the exceptional kora player from Mali, has just seen his custom kora entirely destroyed by American customs, without any justification.
The collar of the kora has been removed. The strings, the bridge and the entire amplification system, delicate and complex, were dismantled. The kora is in pieces. Even if all of the components that were disassembled were intact, it takes weeks before a kora of this caliber can return to its previous resonant state. These types of custom koras are simply impossible to replace. They are certainly not available in stores.
Ballaké is a distinguished and highly acclaimed artist who travels the world with his kora for concerts in prestigious halls. His reputation is impeccable as an artist and as a human being. He has no criminal record. He is just a brilliant musician, a pacifist, a kind and gentle person, a magnificent and creative artist who manages to give the African tradition a contemporary voice with total integrity.
His kora is a fragile instrument tailor-made according to its own specifications. It is an intrinsic part which gives it this very special and specific sound to Ballaké Sissoko.
Ballaké had just completed a successful two-week tour of the United States (LA, Berkeley, Miami, Chicago and NY) with his group 3MA, an innovative and unique trio that brings together string instruments from Mali, Morocco and Madagascar. [Showcased right upthread]
It was a night flight that arrived in Paris on February 4. When he opened the kora's case, he was shocked and dismayed to find his kora in several pieces, with only one note from the American customs - in Spanish, with the unfortunate motto: “Intelligent security saves time” . ...
"Would they have dismantled a Stradivarius?" asks Ballaké on his Facebook account.
The dismantled kora
In French: https://www.maliweb.net/art-culture/larmes-pour-une-kora-brisee-la-douane-americaine-brise-la-kora-de-ballake-sissoko-2858585.html