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Frost Amphitheater



Derek Gripper and Yacouba Sissoko
Friday, October 8, 2021
7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Bing Concert Hall



Derek Gripper, guitar

Yacouba Sissoko, kora


Generously supported by the California Arts Council, WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation), and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.

HEALTH AND SAFETY: All patrons are required to wear a mask at this performance. 


About the Artists

Derek Gripper
Derek Gripper is a classical guitarist who has taken a unique path. As a South African classical musician he found himself limited by the music of the traditional classical guitar and so went on a journey through different musical styles, returning always to the guitar to find ways of bringing what he learned onto the instrument.

His studies took him to India where he learned the rudiments of the Carnatic percussion language, and then to the farms of the Western Cape where he created an “avant­ghoema” string quartet language (Sagtevlei, 2001) with South African composer and trumpeter Alex van Heerden. He then began to explore the limits of the classical guitar’s sonority, first on eight string guitar evocations of Cape Town folk music (Blomdoorns, 2003), then in compositions on a guitar by legendary luthier Hermann Hauser (Ayo, 2008, Kai Kai, 2009), and then in transcriptions by Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti (The Sound of Water, 2012) whose solo guitar works are an explosive rewriting of classical guitar, world music, jazz, and contemporary classical. The album combines Gismonti’s music with Derek’s own compositions.

In 2012 he completed a ten year project to understand and translate the music of the West African kora (21 string harp) virtuoso Toumani Diabate to solo guitar, resulting in two critically acclaimed albums, One Night on Earth (Songlines Top of the World) and Libraries on Fire, the latter receiving a Songlines award for “Best Album Africa and Middle East” in 2017. The recognition from these albums resulted in concert tours the world over, performances at venues such as Carnegie Hall, and collaborations with classical guitar legend John Williams, Indian guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya, and West African musicians such as Trio da Kali and Toumani Diabate himself.

In 2017 Derek returned to the studio and to his musical roots to record an album of the solo violin works of Bach, arranged on solo guitar and delivered with the phraseology and fire of a musician who has steeped himself in musics outside of the classical canon. That album released in 2018. His latest album, Billy Goes to Durban, released this year and is available now.

Yacouba Sissoko
Yacouba Sissoko was born in Kita, Mali, to a well-known djely family. Djelys for centuries have been the traditional musicians and keepers of the factual history and fables of past rulers, nobles, social groups, and families. The kora was the traditional instrument that djelys played.

At the age of 9, Yacouba started learning the kora and the oral traditions associated with it from his grandfather until he moved to Bamako, Mali’s capital, to attend the National Institute of the Arts. Based in the capital, he caught the attention of the music world and began touring with noted international African artists which eventually led him to settle in the United States in 1998.

With an intention to introduce and share the stories of his people but also to learn from other musicians and cultures, Yacouba incorporates a variety of musical influences into his repertoire, and as such has developed his own unique style of kora.

He performed, toured, and recorded with well known African musicians such as Baaba Maal, Sekou (Bambino) Diabate and Kerfala Kante. Yacouba, not limited to African music, has also recorded and performed with a variety of artists including Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and Lauren Hill. He has recorded tracks on over 15 CDs.

Rooted in giving back to the community, Yacouba regularly performs for cultural programs and benefit concerts. In recognition of his commitment to educating others in 2007 he was selected as a Teaching Artist by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall and returned again to Carnegie Hall in 2016 and 2019 as a featured artists in the Musical Explorers Program in New York, NY and Savannah, GA. He also received a Sunshine Award for Performing Arts, African Music in 2016.

Yacouba continues to blend effortlessly with other musical styles, whether it is performing Indian ragas or Appalachian tunes. Yacouba can be seen regularly touring with Regina Carter, Rachel Brown, Jordana de Lovely, Oran Etkin, Kavita Shah, Benyoro, and his own band SIYA. His first solo album SIYA was released in 2017. Learn more about Yacouba's music here.



Generously supported by the California Arts Council, WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation), and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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