Middlebury

Mamadou Diabate returns Sept. 24 with his musical ensemble, exotic instruments, and a uniquely powerful sound

September 2, 2004

Mamadou Diabate and ensembleMIDDLEBURY, Vt.?After his successful appearance at Middlebury College last year, West African musician-storyteller Mamadou Diabate will return at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, to Middlebury College's Center for the Arts Concert Hall.  

Diabate, who now lives in the United States, was born in 1975 in Kita, Mali, in West Africa. Descended from a long line of Manding musician-storytellers, Diabate is known as a jeli, traditionally recognized as an oral historian who preserves his people's consciousness of the past through music and oratory.

Diabate plays a striking instrument known as the kora. It carries a harp-like sound but bears no resemblance to a harp. It features a large gourd as a resonator and a long neck and high bridge with 21 strings. Diabate has been playing the kora since he was four, training with his father and many other musicians in his family.

The Malian musical tradition emphasizes mastering the old ways, but it also values innovation. In that spirit, Diabate has created a contemporary sound that bears influences of jazz and blues thanks to collaborations with American artists such as jazz musician Randy Weston and blues performer Guy Davis.

Diabate's debut album, "Tunga"?meaning adventure?showcases the infusion of past and present. RootsWorld praised Diabate's "flair for making this ancient instrument sound as though it was invented yesterday." The Miami New Times called the album "the most successful blending yet" of the African and African-American sounds and declared, "Mamadou Diabate just makes brilliant music."

Diabate currently is touring with an ensemble that also features a singer and two other instrumentalists. Vocalist Adjaratou "Tapani" Demba, known for her powerful voice and traditional style, began her career by singing backup for Kandia Kouyate, one of the most well known female singers of Mali. Balla Kouyate, who plays the balafon, a wooden xylophone, has accompanied scores of African artists both in the recording studio and on tours throughout Europe and the U.S.  Bass player Noah Jarrett will also perform.

Tickets for the Sept. 24 concert are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors. For tickets or information, call the College Box Office at 802-443-6433, or visit online at http://www.middlebury.edu/arts.

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