'The Mande Variations' is kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate's first solo album in over twenty years. The term "solo album" can in this case be taken very literally, because more than Diabate's kora you won't get to hear on this album. Fortunately, Diabate masters his instrument that well that it stays captivating for the duration of an entire album. For the recording of 'The Mande Variations' Toumani used just two instruments; two kora's that are almost symbolic of his musical career: one a forty year old traditional instrument with leather tuning cords he got from his father and the other a modern self-designed instrument with an entirely new tuning. On 'The Mande Variations' Diabate is in fact constantly doing three things at once: playing the bass part, playing the melody and finally adding a dose of improvisation. 'The Mande Variations' is just about as close as African music can get to classical music and at the same time Toumani's finger magic is closely related to American jazz.