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Not many musicians can claim an 800-year musical legacy as balafon master FamoroDioubate can. From one of the most prestigious families of griots (musician/storytellers)in Guinea, Dioubate is a guardian of traditions dating back to the 13th century in theancient Mandé Empire. Named for his ancestral village, Dioubate’s ensemble Kakande isan extension of the lineage that he knew back home, bridging this near millennialtradition to modern audiences.
As legend holds, the balafon (xylophone) appeared magically in the forest almost athousand years ago where it was discovered and guarded jealously by mightysorcerer-king Sumanguru Kante. Eventually it was re-conquered by the founder of theMandé Empire, Sundiata Keita, who bequeathed it to his griot to play and protect.
Grammy winning singer Mory Kante joined Kakande on their 2008 concerts to promotethe CD release of Dununya. Kante first met Dioubate years ago when he was halted bythe sounds of his balafon on the streets of Guinea. He asked his driver to stop, andapproached the youngster. He was so impressed that he gave him $100 on the spot,prophesying his greatness. They haved remained close friends ever since.
Today, Dioubate is a unique artist in the Mandé musical world; keenly aware of thetradition he was born into, yet eager to reshape it. He carefully crafted this ensemble toserve his aesthetic curiosity. His inclusion of non-traditional elements is a nod to thedynamic and fluid nature of tradition. In a blindfold test, even the most educatedlistener of traditional music would have trouble discerning that many in the band arenot African, and may be surprised to learn that the least traditional elements, theinclusion of the cello for example, were part of Dioubate’s own artistic design.
The lyrics on Dununya reflect the age and wisdom of this ancient form. On the surface,“Mali Sadjo” tells a story about a hippo in love with a girl. But in the allegorical natureof oral griot songs it is more complicated than the simple tale of a forlorn animal. And“So Si Sa” is more than just a whimsical tale of a man fruitlessly knocking on hisgirlfriend’s door, only to go home knowing that she is inside ignoring him. There isdepth and richness in this music waiting to be discovered.
At its heart, that is what Kakande is all about. Eight hundred years of tradition is a heavy,daunting legacy. But for Famoro Dioubate and Kakande, tradition is picked up,dusted off, and fashioned anew. “We are musicians,” says Dioubate. “We havesomething together, and good musicians know no boundaries.”
World Music/Contemporary | World Music/Traditional
- New York, NY
West African Group Kakande with Debut Appearance at Webster Hall 05/03
Not many musicians can claim an 800-year musical legacy as balafon master Famoro Dioubate can. From one of the most prestigious families of griots (musician/storytellers) in Guinea, Dioubate is a guardian of traditions dating back to the 13th century in the ancient Mandé Empire. Named for his ancestral village, Dioubate’s ensemble Kakande is an extension of the lineage that he knew back home, bridging this near millennial tradition to modern audiences.
As legend holds, the balafon...
- 05/03/2013, New York, NY, The Studio at Webster Hall, 7:00 pm View