South African classical guitarist Derek Gripper gave himself what seemed to be an impossible task: to transcribe the intricate twenty-one-string-kora compositions of Malian master Toumani Diabaté for six-string guitar. When Diabaté himself heard the results, the awestruck musician demanded confirmation that he was indeed only hearing one guitar; he later invited Gripper to collaborate. For decades, Gripper has worked to create a new international repertoire for classical guitar. In that quest, he has turned to the music of South Africa and Brazil, but consecutive albums of his sublime kora interpretations — his breakthrough One Night on Earth (2012) and his award-winning Libraries on Fire (2016) — have made him one of the world’s foremost guitarists and contextualized the kora’s mesmerizing counterpoint in the classical tradition. Joined by Congolese guitarist Jaja Bashengezi and Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe as part of his African Strings Project, Gripper is an essential musical emissary. In March 2018, Duke Performances brought some of the most musically fabled regions of the world to Durham with Black Atlantic, a weeklong festival in downtown Durham celebrating the music of Africa and the African diaspora. Musicians from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela, Mali, the Garifuna people of Honduras, and Spain took the stage at Motorco and the Carolina Theatre. “These six concerts,” wrote Duke professor Laurent Dubois, “remind us of common routes, of the ways Black Atlantic music has helped turn exile and exclusion into grounding and connection.” This season, Black Atlantic returns to Motorco (and adds one concert at Baldwin Auditorium) in search of more cultural connections and imaginative hybrids, with artists from South Africa, Congo, Uganda, Mali/Ivory Coast/France, Mauritania, Cuba, Niger, New York, and Brazil.