MIDDLEBURY, Vt.?Mamadou Diabate’s music, hailing from half a world away and centuries ago, will be center-stage at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 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-American sound 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 whom local audiences may remember as a 2002-2003 Middlebury College Performing Arts Series artist. Balla Kouyate, who plays the wooden xylophone or balafon, has accompanied scores of African artists both in the recording studio and on tours throughout Europe and the U.S. Cheick Hamala Diabate, who is unrelated to Mamadou Diabate, will play the ngoni, a stringed lute and ancestor of the banjo, which he learned to play from his maternal grandfather. Like Mamadou Diabate, Cheick Hamala Diabate is from a family of jelis and was trained from birth in oral history, song and music.

During his stay, Diabate also will conduct a special master class on Friday, Oct. 3, from 11:15 a.m.-12 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The class is free and open to the public.

Diabate’s visit is co-sponsored by several Middlebury College organizations: the Performing Arts Series, the department of music, and the Center for the Arts. Additional support is provided by funds from the Christian A. Johnson Foundation.

Tickets for the Oct. 4 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 www.middlebury.edu/cfa.

Events Calendar Listings:

Friday, Oct. 3

11:15 a.m.-12 p.m.

Master Class: Mamadou Diabate, kora player and ensemble

Concert Hall, Middlebury College Center for the Arts, South Main Street (Route 30)

Saturday, Oct. 4

8 p.m.

Concert: Mamadou Diabate, kora player and ensemble
Mamadou Diabate was born in Kita, Mali, in West Africa. He comes from a family of griots, or jeli, as they are known among the Manding, who use music to sustain consciousness of a past that stretches back many centuries. Diabate now lives in the U.S. and has collaborated with jazz and blues musicians. He plays the kora, a 21-string harp, and is accompanied by a two-instrumentalist ensemble and a singer.

Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors.

Concert Hall, Middlebury College Center for the Arts, South Main Street (Route 30)

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