Cheick Hamala Diabate / « Back

Malian tradition lies at the heart and foot-stomping soul of Cheick Hamala Diabate and his band, but their melodies and undeniable rhythms cut across age and ethnicity. Diabate primarily plays the ngoni and the banjo; think of the ngoni as a great-grandfather to the banjo and it all makes sense, because both instruments share the ability to convey melody and plucked percussive rhythm. Diabate is from Kita in Mali and born into a family of griots, or storytellers; his first cousin is the legendary kora player Toumani Diabate. Cheick Hamala Diabate makes his home these days in a Maryland suburb a few miles over the D.C. line, and his band is comprised of a mix of American-born and West African musicians. His music often tells a tale about Mali and its people as part of the sway and shake but he’s also a brilliant improviser and his smile from the stage is infectious. It’s truly joyful to witness such a cross-section of cultures finding a common bond in music.

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