January 28, 2002

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: January 28, 2001

MIDDLEBURY, VT- She hails from the West African nation of Mali where she has gained notoriety as a modern day troubadour following a centuries-old tradition of singers who served as cornerstones to daily life. Kandia Kouyate plans to share her unique sound with a Vermont audience in a Middlebury College concert Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall at the Center for the Arts on South Main Street (Route 30).

The semi-arid nation of Mali is home to the legendary city of Timbuktu. Kouyate’s music is rooted in the tradition of the Mandinka tribe in which male singers called "Jali" served a myriad of functions in society including historians, genealogists, poets, entertainers, praise singers and counselors. Today, the Jali are mostly entertainers. Female Jali such as Kouyate are quite popular and have earned the title "Jalimusa."

Although she embraces her role in modern music, Kouyate has remained true to her tradition in her appearance and her material. For example, she performs her interpretations of great epic story-songs of Mande history, such as the tale of Sundiata, the 12th century founder of the Empire of Mali.

Kouyate has received critical acclaim in Africa and recently in Europe. Searching for a familiar comparison, The New York Times said Kouyate has "the charisma and vocal power of the most commanding American soul singers," although her music is far from the sound of modern soul.

In addition to guitar and strings, Kouyate’s ensemble features accompaniment on traditional African instruments, including a 21-string harp-lute called a "kora," a xylophone called a "balafon," and a bass harp called a "bolon."

Following several recordings in Africa, Kouyate recently released her first solo compact disc on the Sterns label.

Her concert is sponsored by the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series. Tickets for the performance are $10 for general admission and $8 for seniors. For information and tickets, contact the College box office at 802-443-6433.