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Ami Koita


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Ami Koita is a female griot singer from Mali singing in Mandinka. The spelling of her name is unclear, and she’s called Ami Koïta, Amy Koita and Amy Koïta, too.The spelling of the name results from the colonial heritage, which changes the spelling from French to English, etc. Generally, however, “Ami” is short for “Aminata,” which may explain the spelling “Ami.” Similarly, the two dots on top of the “i” is French in spelling, as traditionally, “oi” yields the sound [‘fwa] as in “fois” (times).

Ami Koita was born in the Malian village of Djoliba, the same village where Salif Keita was born. Both artists sing in the traditional Djelistyle, though Koita was born into a Djeli family, and Keita chose the path of a Djeli instead of the “Freeborn” or “Noble” class he was born to. Actually Ami Koita is really called a Djelimuso, a female griot singer. She comes from two griots families, Koita (her father’s side) and Kamissoko (by her mother). After her father’s death she went to live with her mother in Bamako. She started singing at the age of six. In 1969 she became part of the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali. Her first album was released in 1976 without her consent. On her albums Koita combines traditional instruments with modern ones, like synthesizers.

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