Harp traditions of two continents united in a unique collaboration
Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita
Senegal and Wales share few obvious similarities, but Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch, respectively maestros of the kora and Welsh harp, have found an enchanted middle ground between their birthplaces and traditions.
Catrin Finch—known as the Queen of Harps—served as the Royal Harpist to the Prince of Wales, tours widely as a soloist and with the world’s top orchestras. Seckou Keita was born in southern Senegal to a revered family of griots — storytellers and musicians who serve as the traditional historians in African culture.
Traditional West African music often features kora, a large gourd with 21 strings and a long round wooden neck, played in Guinea, Senegal, and Mali.
Both kora and harp are court instruments, and the connection is made explicit on Bach To Baisso from the duo's 2018 Soar album. It starts with the aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations played straight but not stiff, and segues into Baisso, an ancient Senegal melody:
Watch Catrin Finch perform a Welsh folk tune Lisa Lan (Fair Lisa), a lover's lament for the late Lisa, ending when the heartsick lover asks Lisa to guide him to where she is, so that he may be reunited with her: