All eyes were on vocalist Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté as she took centre stage alone in a shiny purple robe, tiny white shells dangling from her braids.

Her ululating invocation resounded through the theatre, with graceful hand gestures directing our attention.

She was joined by virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabaté, who struck the rosewood keys on top of resonant calabashes with a delicate touch, varying the dynamics and once teasing the audience by weaving in the theme from Take Five, smiling cheekily while raising a questioning eyebrow.

Mamadou Kouyaté completed the trio, adding a twanging bassline with his ngoni, West Africa’s oldest string instrument.

Singer Mady stepped out towards the front row of the audience, kicking off her sandals to perform sweeping side-to-side dance steps, inviting everyone to chant back in call-and-response style, tossing her bead-covered yabara percussion instrument into the air in time to the music.

The three performers are griots, continuing their families’ musical traditions from the Mande culture of Mali, yet their traditional repertoire also seems influenced by jazz. From gentle love songs like the slowly undulating Tita and Lila Bambo to new compositions about city life like Yirimajo, this fusion of ancient and contemporary music was a delight.