Vincent Ségal was born in Reims in France. Learning his craft as both a cellist and a bassist at the National Music Academy of Lyon and latterly, at the Banff Centre for the Arts, he has collaborated with Elvis Costello, Sting and Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko.
In 2009 (in France) and 2011 (in the USA) Ségal and Sissoko released their debut record, ‘Chamber Music’, a resonant collection of thoughtful instrumental compositions. Ségal, formerly a member of the French National Orchestra met Sissoko by chance – revealing new horizons for the two musicians.
Talking about their debut album, Vincent explains how it was Ballaké’s suggestion to merge their two distinct styles, creating an entirely original sound – distinct for its South African identity, something which Vincent grew up exposed to in the Pigalle district of Paris. The album was recorded during three sessions at Ballaké’s studio in his home town of Bamako:
“Chamber Music was the result of years of experimentations. It was Ballaké’s proposition to play together as a duo, and I said yes because I had a good feeling about Africa and African Music. Since the beginning, we have been so happy to play simply together without any interferences.” Vincent explains.
The follow up to ‘Chamber Music’ is 2015’s ‘Musique de Nuit” – the majority of which was recorded on a rooftop at Ballaké’s home in Bamako. The entrancing album offers a culturally rich journey across both musicians’ backgrounds – with the warm notes of cello meeting the distinct twang of the kora, the sound is hard to pin down, yet entirely seductive.“I’m not a composer, I’m just playing what I feel – exactly like Ballaké. We use tradition, memory and a lot of invention but in a very simple and flexible way. As an acoustic duo, it’s so easy to play, but the Mandingue style can be complex to master.” Vincent explains.
Vincent Ségal’s first cello teacher was Pierre Penassou (from French string quartet, Parrenin Quartet), who would inspire him to develop a competency and love for the instrument that would follow him throughout his life:
“He was kind of a cross between a Bernstein, Menuhin spirit with a real love for music. I needed to balance my love for classical music with my other musical interests in jazz, pop, hip-hop, and classical Indian music which wasn’t easy. But now I’m happy because I have my own cello style and it’s very specific.” Vincent says.
Although from completely separate backgrounds, with Sissoko having been born into the griot caste in Mali, and Ségal growing up in France, the two musicians have found common ground in their intrinsic love for music. In their music, they find solace from the unrest that exists in the world:
“Sometimes I’m depressed by the violence, and the hate. That’s why music is my nest.” Vincent explains.
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal play at St George’s in Bristol on Wednesday 2 March.
For more information and to book tickets: www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk