(born August 10, 1965) is a Malian kora player. In addition to
performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in
cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other
Diabaté comes from a long family tradition of kora players including his
father Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first ever kora album in 1970.
His family's oral tradition tells of 70 generations of musicians
preceding him in a patrilineal line. His cousin Sona Jobarteh is the
first female kora player to come from a Griot family. His younger
brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is also a prominent kora player.
In 1987, Diabate made his first appearance on an album in the UK, on Ba
Togoma, an album featuring his father's ensemble. In 1988 Diabaté
released his first album in the West, a solo album entitled Kaira,
recorded in one afternoon in London and produced by Lucy Durán.
In addition to performing Malian traditional music, Diabaté has also
performed and recorded in cross-cultural settings. He has collaborated
with flamenco group Ketama, forming a combined group known as Songhai
and releasing two recordings: Songhai I and Songhai II. In 1999, Diabaté
collaborated with American blues musician Taj Mahal on the release
Kulanjan. "MALIcool" is a collaboration with American jazz trombonist
Roswell Rudd. He also collaborated with the Icelandic popular musician
Björk on her 2007 album Volta.
In 1999 Diabaté released the album New Ancient Strings, a collaboration
with Ballaké Sissoko and in September 2005, he released In the Heart of
the Moon, for which he collaborated with Ali Farka Touré. The album went
on to win the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album.
On July 25, 2006 he released his latest album Boulevard de
l'Indépendance, recorded with his Symmetric Orchestra. In the Heart of
the Moon and Boulevard de l'Indépendance, are both part of the Hotel
Mandé Sessions, recorded by Nick Gold and released on World Circuit
Records. Both Boulevard and Hotel Mandé are references to landmarks in
Mali's capital city, Bamako.
The Symmetric Orchestra led by Toumani Diabaté is composed of musicians
(mostly griots) from the across the old Mande Empire of west Africa, who
play a mix of traditional instruments including the kora, djembe,
balafon and bolombatto, as well as modern ones like the guitar and
Diabaté appeared in 2006 at the WOMAD Festival UK, Roskilde Festival in
Denmark, and at the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary. In 2007 he
performed at the Glastonbury Festival and toured the U.S.A.. In 2008, he
was at WOMADelaide (in Adelaide, Australia). In early 2008, Diabaté
released his new album of solo Kora music, The Mandé Variations, to
widespread critical acclaim. Many reviewers praised the album for its
detailed recording of the Kora and careful mastering, in addition to the
improvisational skills and wide range of apparent influences displayed
on the album.
In October 2008 the Arabic language lyrics in Diabaté's song Tapha Niang
(from Boulevard de l'Indépendance) were removed from the PlayStation 3
video game LittleBigPlanet, after it elicited objections from a Muslim
individual due to their inclusion of verses from the Qur’an. The
publisher Sony Computer Entertainment Europe decided to delay the launch
of the game by a week and recall most discs in order to replace the
song with a lyric-free instrumental version. However, some copies of the
original game had already been sold in the Middle East and United
Diabaté was chosen by Matt Groening to perform at the All Tomorrow's
Parties festival in May 2010 in Minehead. Diabaté also performed at Hay
Festival in June. In July he performed at the Larmer Tree Festival to