Often who gets booked for the Wild Hare Club is the result of a fortuitous meeting with someone and then finding out there are various connections, people in common and shared musical touchstones. So it was with Koral Society, I quickly befriended Debbie Golt, the band’s mentor/manager through Campfire and she introduced me to Caroline Trettine the band’s principal writer.
Talking to Caroline, I soon discovered that she is one of the slew of great musicians who has passed through the ranks of Bristol’s Blue Aeroplanes, an art-rock band who I’ve long held a candle for and who have just released their umpteenth album to great reviews. Koral Society however is a very different proposition to the Bristol beatniks.
African kora player, Mosi Conde, not only adds beautiful melodic flourishes and subtle African rhythms to Caroline’s guitar-led songs but also sings. Together these two duet while all the time there is the subtle underpinning of Alison Rayner’s double bass. Alison is a highly-accomplished player and, as it happens, used to live just round the corner from me when I lived in Stokey, N16. As well as playing jazzy fare in the renowned local club, The Vortex, she would occasionally join a bunch of other women (including long-time collaborator guitarist Deidre Cartwright of Rockschool fame) in The Emma Peel Fan Club whose Christmas shows celebrating the singing sensations of swinging ‘60s in Stoke Newington town hall are the stuff of legend. (I have a very funny story about one of those, but this is not the place). With lyrics that poignantly weave English, French and Mandinka, Caroline sings from the heart. Be prepared to be quietly blown away.
For those of you who have never come across a kora, it is a West African harp with 21 strings built from a large calabash which cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. The strings run in two divided ranks over a notched bridge making it a double harp. It is in my opinion one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world. Mosi Conde, like everybody in his family in Conakry (Guinea) is a griot, that is to say he is one of a long line of musicians who serve as the traditional historians, genealogists and storytellers for their communities and who pass their skills and knowledge on the next generation. You can read more about his story as recounted to BBC Radio 3’s World on Your Street.