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Here’s my performance-ready version of this amazing endless melody of a piece.  I’ve been enjoying Derek Grippers arrangements of Kora music for classical guitar for years, and finally got a chance to try some of them out.

Someone once said (I forgot who) that it’s impossible to be unhappy while playing the baroque guitar–and the same can be said for this piece. So many things seem to be going wrong in the world right now, but being able to practice and share music with this instrument is one of the things that is always going right.

P.S. the rubato opening is improvised. Since this music sounds and feels very improvisatory, I like to improvise an intro every time I play it.

The Tuning is E B F# D A D, with a capo on the 3rd fret. (This makes the actual strings G D B-flat F C F)


A few things about the piece, and about the version I am playing here.

As far as I can reckon, the piece called “Jarabi” is a traditional song, or piece. According to South African guitarist and composer Derek Gripper, it’s  “a traditional kora piece from the Manding Empire,” which partially encompassed what is now Mali.  Wikipedia has this to say: “The Wassoulou empire, sometimes referred to as the Mandinka Empire, was a short lived West African state that existed from roughly 1878 until 1898,[1] although dates vary from source to source. It spanned from what is now southwestern Mali and upper Guinea, with its capital in Bissandugu; it expanded further south and east into northern Ghana and Ivory Coast before its downfall.”

The Kora player Toumani Diabaté recorded a virtuosic and melody-rich version of Jarabi on his first album, “Kaira,” which he recorded in a single afternoon in 1988. Here’s a Spotify link to that album.

Here’s a bit more about Diabaté, from Wikipedia:

“Diabaté comes from a long family tradition of kora players, including his father Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first-ever kora album in 1970.  His family’s oral tradition tells of 70 generations of musicians preceding him in a patrilineal line. His cousin Sona Jobarteh is the first female professional kora player to come from a Griot family. His younger brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is also a prominent kora player. According to Diabaté, a childhood illness resulted in him losing the use of his right leg, and he walks using a crutch.”

In 2012, Derek Gripper released an album called One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali which was a recording of a live performance of his transcriptions of Kora music. This album included a version of Jarabi, which was arranged mostly from a different version of Diabate’s, on an album called The Mande Variations,. recorded 30 years later, in 2008. On that album, linked below, the Jarabi track is for some reason called “Cantelowes,” and the characteristic intro is replaced with a playful adaptation of the theme from the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” by Ennio Morricone. Go figure.

Gripper later created and performed a different version of Jarabi, based on Diabate’s original recording. That version is the closest to one I learned, which puts many of the melodic voices into a higher register. On his album One Night On Earth Live in 2021, he records Jarabi again, based on this version, but with the voices put in the lower register again. Not sure why, but it does sound great either way.

Complicated enough for you? Well, life is complicated. It’s great music, go listen to it!

Links mentioned:

Derek Gripper’s original album, on Bandcamp:
One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali

Derek Gripper’s 2022-released album:
One Night On Earth Live in 2021

Toumani Diabate’s album
The Mande Variations,” on Spotify.

Here is a link to Gripper’s purchasable score that I worked from for the above video
Jarabi For Classical Guitar Full Score in Staff Notation

Here’s a link to the original version in tablature, and a tab version of what I played.
Jarabi Tablature 2014 and 2020 Full Versions