The word on the street is that Mali's premier kora player Toumani Diabate comes from a line of -- get this -- 71 kora players. Most Americans can't trace their roots back more than two generations, but that kind of li! neage -- whether it's accurate or not -- only indicates how seriously Mali takes its music and its history. Diabate was born into a family of hereditary musicians and his story mimics those of nearly any instrumental virtuoso: he learned kora thanks to a parent (his father, Sidiki, who was known as the king of the kora); he began studying at age five and performed for the first time when he was just 13; he's now an acknowledged world master of the instrument. Studying the kora, an 18-stringed lute, is no laughing matter: Diabate was schooled in songs dating back to the 15th century, and his repertoire is vaster than even he could describe. While he's not as well known in the west as artists like Ali Farka Toure or Youssou N'Dour (mainly because he tours much less), his albums are nonetheless classics of the genre. In 1988 he traveled to London to record his first solo album, Kaira and each release since then has sparkled with his trademark delicacy, intelligence and sheer, unadulterated skill. While he's collaborated with the new flamenco group Ketama twice (for the Songhai series), Diabate's not a prolific recording artist, and he was in danger of falling off the world music radar at the turn of the 21st century. But in 2005 his career was resurrected when producer Nick Gold enabled a series of recordings that led to three new albums, the first of which was In The Heart of the Moon, an album of improvised duets with Ali Farka Toure.