Habib Koite (Mali/France)
West African Folk Blues
8th February 2020 - 7 PM onwards - Gandhi Ground
Malian guitarist Habib Koité is one of Africa’s most popular and recognized musicians.
Habib comes from a noble line of Khassonké griots, traditional troubadors who provide wit, wisdomand musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events. Habib grew up surrounded by seventeen brothers and sisters, and developed his unique guitar style accompanying his griot mother. He inherited his passion for music from his paternal grandfather who played the kamele n’goni, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated with hunters from the Wassolou region of Mali. "Nobody really taught me to sing or to play the guitar," explains Habib, "I watched my parents, andit washed off on me."
Habib was headed for a career as an engineer, but on the insistence of his uncle, who recognized Habib's musical talent, heenrolled at the National Institute of Arts (INA) in Bamako, Mali. In 1978, after only six months, he was made conductor of INA Star, the school's prestigious band. He studied music for four years, graduating at the top of his class in 1982. (In fact his talent was so impressive, that upon graduation, the INA hired him as a guitar teacher).
During his studies, Habib had the opportunity to perform and play with a series of recognized Malian artists, including Kélétigui Diabaté and Toumani Diabaté. He sang and played on Toumani Diabaté's 1991 release Shake the World (Sony), and Kélétigui Diabaté became later now a fulltime member of Habib’s band.
Habib takes some unique approaches to playing the guitar. He tunes his instrument to the pentatonic scale and plays on open strings as one would on a kamale n'goni. At other times Habib plays music that sounds closer to the blues or afrocuban, styles he studied under Khalilou Traoré a veteran of the legendary Afro-Cuban band Maravillas du Mali.
Unlike the griots, his singing style is restrained and intimate with varying cadenced rhythms and melodies.
Mali has rich and diverse musical traditions, which have many regional variations and styles that are particular to the local cultures. Habib is unique because he brings together different styles, creating a new pan-Malian approach that reflects his open-minded interest in all types of music. The predominant style played by Habib is based on the danssa, a popular rhythm from his native city of Keyes. He calls his version danssa doso, a Bambara term he coined that combines the name of the popular rhythm with the word for hunter’s music (doso), one of Mali’s most powerful and ancient musical traditions. “I put these two words together to symbolize the music of all ethnic groups in Mali. I’m curious about all the music in the world, but I make music from Mali. In my country, we have so many beautiful rhythms and melodies. Many villages and communities have their own kind of music.
Usually, Malian musicians play only their own ethnic music, but me, I go everywhere. My job is to take all these traditions and to make something with them, to use them in my music.”