Tiny Desk

Cheick Hamala Diabate

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24 min 44 sec

There was an awful lot of dancing going on the first time I stumbled upon the music of Cheick Hamala Diabate. On the dance floor at U Street's Tropicalia that night was a rich cross-section of D.C. life, all entranced by the music of Mali.

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 musicians are American-born and inspired by this lively lyrical music, which often tells a tale about Mali and its people as part of the sway and shake. It's an honor to witness such a cross-section of cultures finding a common bond in music.

Set List
  • "Mali De Nou"
  • "Talcamba"
  • "Djire Madje"
Credits

Producer: Bob Boilen; Editor: Parker Miles Blohm; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo

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