Djélimady Tounkara is a Malian musician and one of the foremost guitarists in Africa.
Born in the culturally rich town of Kita, east of the Malian capital, Bamako, Djélimady grew up surrounded with traditional music played by members of his family. The Tounkaras are Griots, musicians and historians by birth. Djélimady played djembe drum and xalam, a banjo-like lute, as a boy. When he moved to Mali's capital, Bamako, during the 1960s, he had actually planned to work as a tailor. But music proved a stronger calling. He started playing guitar in a large, government-sponsored neighborhood band, Orchestre Misira. Voted the best guitarist in the band, Djélimady was selected to join the Orchestre National as rhythm guitarist, a great honor for the young player.
All his adult life, Djélimady has worked to transform his ancestral traditions into dance pop. But at the same time, he has continued to work in more traditional contexts, backing the great griot singers of Mali on records, in concerts and at the day-long wedding and baptism celebrations that are the modern griot's life blood. In recent years, Djélimady has performed in an acoustic trio called Bajourou, accompanied by another masterful griot guitarist, Bouba Sacko, and by singer Lafia Diabate, a veteran of the Rail Band.
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