The Bristol Griot

The Bristol Griot is a spring into summer 2021 album-making collaborative
project, of kora melodies by Moussa Kouyate with spoken word by
David Mowat exploring the twenty years of Bristol-based life of emigre Moussa,
a Malian griot-kora player with BEJE jazz rhythm section Federico Leonori
double bass and Paolo Adamo kit drums, concert harpist Emmy Broughton,
beat poet/researcher-writer and trumpeter David Mowat, and performance-poet
as yet not identified. We’re partnered with ‘The Sanctuary’, a youth-focussed
social enterprise in Bedminster Bristol and with them are aiming the album at
young people, refugee, jazz, and African-Caribbean communities. We’re funded by Arts Council England.

Why are we doing this?

There’s been a 10-year collaboration between Moussa and David. When the pandemic hit and other projects folded, a chance opportunity afforded by the ACE-funded Bristol Refugee Festival in June 2020 brought them together and
the idea was born to explore Moussa’s distinctive voice and place in Bristol, and weave in harpist Emmy, a new collaborator, and David’s long-term BEJE project with its internationalist focus.

What’s our aim?

To create a beautiful album marking Moussa’s later-life identity as a Bristol
Griot, distinct from his traditional role in a lineage of griots to the Malian
Mandinga Kings. A griot is a kind of bard, known as a ‘jali’ in the Mandinga language.

We’ll examine and celebrate in beat poetry his story and relationship to two neighbourhoods where he’s made his mark as street musician and talismanic presence, Bristol Harbourside and Bedminster. The music
will draw from kora tradition, new compositions and jazz.

What are our objectives?

• to revive Moussa’s career through an album that builds a youth fan base and
gets great press.
• For Moussa to mentor Emmy in kora styles so she expands her knowledge
beyond western-classical and folk traditions.
• to support the development of the youth-focussed social enterprise in
Bedminster, for whom Moussa is ‘godfather’, known as The Sanctuary; this
project is under the co-direction of Jack Jones, a co-director there who’s a graphic artist and
will lead on album art work.
• to collect stories and create ‘beat-poetry’ from Moussa’s recent life. To recruit a
performance poet hopefully from Bristol’s refugee community.
• to further the development of BEJE as a contemporary jazz ensemble who
support international artists.