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Malian Musician Ballaké Sissoko Seeks Answers From US Customs Officials Following Broken Kora

'These kinds of custom-made koras are simply impossible to replace,' says Ballaké Sissoko.

Renowned Malian musician Ballaké Sissoko is seeking answers from customs officials in the US after finding his kora, a West African musical instrument which resembles a harp, in numerous pieces following a US tour.

According to Sissoko, upon arriving in Paris and opening his luggage, he found a leaflet from US customs officials which stated that they had opened the instrument's case for inspection purposes. However, the leaflet said nothing about the disassembly of the instrument itself.

In a statement recently released by the musician, he says:

"The strings, bridge and entire, delicate and complex sound system of amplification has been taken apart. Even if all the components that have been disassembled were intact, it takes weeks before a kora of this calibre can return to its previous state of resonance. These kinds of custom-made koras are simply impossible to replace. In Mali, the jihadists threaten to destroy musical instruments, cut the tongues out of singers, and silence Mali's great musical heritage. And yet, ironically, it is the USA customs that have in their own way managed to do this."

Sissoko is a contemporary master of the kora who rose to fame in 1999 after featuring on fellow kora player Toumani Diabaté's album "New Ancient Strings". The following year, he then released his debut solo album "Déli" which features his wife and vocalist Mama Draba, among several other musicians.

US customs officials have not yet officially responded to the allegations of having disassembled the instrument.

Meanwhile, many on social media have condemned the act and rallied behind the musician.






Interview
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Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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