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Tue, 08.10.1965

Toumani Diabaté, Kora Musician born

Toumani Diabaté

*Toumani Diabaté was born on this date in 1965. He is a Black African Kora player. He was born in Bamako, Mali, into a griot family. His father was known as “the king of the Kora,” Toumani is his family's 71st generation of musicians.

He started to play Kora at age five and is now considered one of the greatest players of this traditional West African instrument. In addition to performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, bluesjazz, and other international styles. Diabaté comes from a long family tradition of kora players, including his father Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first-ever kora album in 1970. His family's oral tradition tells of 70 generations of musicians preceding him in a patrilineal line. His cousin Sona Jobarteh is the Griot family's first female Kora player. His younger brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is also a prominent kora player. In 1987, he appeared on Ba Togoma, an album featuring his father's ensemble.

This was his opportunity to be heard outside his homeland. In 1988, he released his first album in the West, a solo endeavor entitled Kaira, recorded in one afternoon in London and produced. In addition to performing Malian traditional music, Diabaté has also performed and recorded in cross-cultural settings. He has collaborated with the flamenco group Ketama, forming a combined group called Songhai. In 1999, Diabaté collaborated with American blues musician Taj Mahal on the release of Kulanjan. MALIcool was a collaboration with American jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd. He also collaborated with the Icelandic popular musician Björk on her 2007 album Volta. In 2005, he released In the Heart of the Moon, for which he collaborated with Ali Farka Touré. The album went on to win the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album.

The Symmetric Orchestra, led by Diabaté, comprises musicians (mostly griots) from across the old Mande Empire of West Africa, who play a mix of traditional instruments. Diabaté appeared in 2006 at the WOMAD Festival UK, Roskilde Festival in Denmark, and the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary. In 2007, he performed at the Glastonbury Festival and toured the U.S.A. In early 2008, Diabaté released a new album of solo kora music, The Mandé Variations. Many reviewers praised the project for its detailed recording of the K kora and careful mastering, in addition to the improvisational skills and wide range of apparent influences on display.

In October 2008, the Arabic-language lyrics in Diabaté's song "Tapha Niang" (from Boulevard de l'Indépendance) were removed from the PlayStation 3 video game LittleBigPlanet, after it elicited objections from a Muslim individual due to their inclusion of verses from the Qur’an. The publisher, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, delayed the game's launch by a week and recalled most discs to replace the song with a lyric-free instrumental version. However, some original game copies had already been sold in the Middle East and the United States.

Diabaté was chosen to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in May 2010 in Minehead. Diabaté also performed at Hay Festival in June. In July, he performed at the Larmer Tree Festival. In February 2016, Diabaté hosted the Festival Acoustic Bamako, a three-day music festival to bring together international and Malian musicians and other public figures with an overall message of peace. It was planned as a collection of outdoor and indoor music events to draw crowds of more than 20,000 people. However, the 2015 Bamako hotel attack meant that all the outdoor events were canceled.

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