Salimata Diabaté. West Africa is for decades familiar with her warm, powerful and majestic sound of her voice. Salimata Diabaté was born in 1960 in a family of Griots in Dakar, capital city of Senegal. Her father, El Hadj Djigui Diabaté, is master of the balafon. Her mother, Kadiatou Kouyaté, is a famous singer and a child from the famous Kouyaté family. Both were renowned musicians who often moved the audience with their musical ensemble during official events.
Classical sounds brought the listeners back to the glorious time of the first so powerful Kingdom of Mandinka of the 14th century. With the city Timbuktu, her mosque and library as cultural-religious centre, the Mandingo Kingdom reached from the current Guinee, Sene-Gambia to Mali, that formed her biggest centre. The part of the Griot or Djeli wasn’t bound to entertaining the Aristocracy by playing music only.
They were keepers of history; they celebrated historical deeds of the Nobles in song and advised them in times of need. The role of the Griot was determined by heritage and reserved to a few families, including the Kouyaté and the Diabaté. The grandfather of Salimata was a Kouyaté and in this capacity the Griot of a Nobleman Alimamy Samory Touré, forefather of the post-colonial president Sekou Touré who was the driving force of the later world-famous Ballet National du Guinee.
Already at a young age it became clear to Salimata’s father, the master of the balafon, that the musical spiritual qualities of her ancestors are present plentifully. Already on the age of 10 she danced and sang together with the Ballet National du Guinee as a full member and set foot on the most important podia in the West African states that became independent. In the 70ies the young Salimata travelled along-side with a world tour and danced in Europe, the former Soviet Union and Cuba. At the age of 17 she returned to her homeland Senegal and joined the Ballet National du Senegal. From 1985 Salimata focussed on her singing career and she performed together with her Ensemble Africa Salimata on every big podium in Europe and was guest at every big annual world music event in the Benelux.
Early 2004 Salimata Diabaté recorded the CD “Djigui” in Paris, accompanied by musicians who proved on this CD their skills of interpreting the Mandinka style superbly and with majesty. Her particular voice seems to get wings and lifts up from the rippling dreamy sounds of the balafon, the bluesy N’goni, the subtle kora lute and the intent beats of the percussion. Salimata’s repetoire covers not only traditional songs, but also self-written compositions with social themes and personal experiences, like a title song in which she sings a moving ode to her big inspirator, her departed father El Hadj Djigui Diabaté, from whom the spiritual views of life still form the most important guiding principle. His musicality still influences her from her earliest years to the singer she is now.
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