a very special collaboration



A Collaboration between a kora player, a composer and the orchestra..

As is sometimes the way with the best collaborations, Will Goodchild met Mamadou Cissokho randomly, on a session entirely unrelated to this project. Will was giving Mamadou a lift and the pair hit it off, enjoying their shared passion for music. On the way, Mamadou played Will one of his Kora CDs and Will instantly loved the sound of the West African instrument and that was that, the seed was sowed for this collaboration: the concerto for kora and orchestra. 

Commissioned by the High Sheriff of Bristol, Will and Mamadou set to work, jamming together in Will’s music room playing with traditional Kora songs and reworking the melodies. Will was amazed by the rich complexity to the sound of Mamadou’s twenty-two stringed kora. He wanted to put that sound down into notation. 

The kora is usually improvised, with songs learnt by ear rather than eye, which is opposite to the way classical musicians usually work.  Will wanted to write down the Kora’s music, so that he could start to add detail, and think about which orchestra members might play different parts. They recorded some of their work and played it back, working with a sound technician to hone and craft their piece. 

Soon rehearsals started with the rest of the orchestra. Mamadou’s brothers were brought in as percussionists and the piece really began to come to life. In our film, Mamadou describes the excitement of the first rehearsal and Will remarks upon how, “that very thing that I wanted to happen did… with the African musicians [their music] comes from the ground up, they feel it through their entire bodies, with the classical musicians it’s from the head down. I wanted to reverse that.” The classical musicians started to play with a style associated more with the improvised tradition the kora comes from, and the resulting music was fantastic. 

Pixillion got involved with the project right from the start. Filming between February and September, Remco was there on the early jam sessions, attended rehearsals, and finally filmed the concert at St George’s. 

It was amazing to watch these two incredible musicians working together so closely and create something that went from the two of them in a living room to a sixty piece orchestra. The music brought together two musical cultures and two people who didn’t know each other initially, and created a beautiful piece, shared by all the orchestra musicians and audience members who heard it. Collaborations like this affirm the power of music as an important  tool for communication, unhindered by barriers of language and culture, that can facilitate new relationships between people that come from different backgrounds and traditions. More important than ever in our current social climate; we hope there will be many more collaborations like this one. 

On the 18th of June the Bristol Symphony Orchestra performed the Concerto for Kora and Orchestra at St George’s in Bristol. Filmmaker Remco Merbis (Pixillion) and his associates produced a six minute film documenting the collaboration between William Goodchild and Mamadou Cissokho, from when they first met up for a jam session in February through to the final concert, affirming the power of music as an important tool for communication, unhindered by barriers of language and culture –  forging new relationships between people from different backgrounds and traditions.

Credits and technical information

Directed by Remco Merbis
Narrative by Anna Hoghton.
Cinematography, grade and edit by Remco Merbis.
Sony PXW-FS7
Metabones Speedbooster Ultra
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 USM Lens
Manfrotto 546GBK with 504HD head tripod
DJI Ronin
Shot in available light only.
Shot at 25 and 50 fps at 1080p and 4K.
Graded in DaVinci Resolve, using Osiris cinematic film emulation 3D LUTs at 1080p HD with added 35mm film grain.