It’s always a special event when Cheick Hamala Diabate walks in the room. Usually he lights up the space with his contagious smile then goes on to meltdown the joint with his infectious music. Cheick Hamala Diabate is a musician and a historian in the West African griot tradition from the Republic of Mali. Born into a griot family in Kita, Mali, he absorbed 800 years of Malian history and from a young age he learned to play the ngoni-a stringed instrument related to the American banjo-for which he is recognized as a world master. Now based in the cultural crossroads of Washington DC, where he teaches and represents West African culture, Cheick Hamala continually pushes beyond the boundaries of tradition-collaborating and experimenting with multigenerational musicians, producers and incorporating electronic technology into his music. He’s hobnobbed with American string and Blues legends—from Bela Fleck to Corey Harris and is not afraid of running his ngoni or American banjo through a wah-wah peddle with some delay effects. His music embraces the panoply of sound he discovered in America, taking him into sonic realms beyond borders.
Check out Cheick Hamala Diabate on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series HERE
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