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Kimi Djabaté

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Biography

Kimi Djabaté was raised in Tabato, Guinea-Bissau, a village known for its griots, hereditary singer-poets whose songs of praise and tales of history and legends play an essential role in Africa’s musical life. Centuries ago, Djabaté’s ancestors, a wandering troupe of musicians from Mali, traveled to the region and the king of Guinea so loved their songs he invited them to stay and offered them the territory of Tabato. Ever since, the area has been a recognized center for music, dance, handcrafts and other creative arts.

Djabaté was born into a poor but musically accomplished family in Tabato on January 20, 1975. His parents, two brothers and his sister were all professional musicians. Recognized as a prodigy, Djabaté began playing the balafón, the African xylophone, when he was just three years old and soon after learned to play many other traditional instruments. As a pre-teen he was sent to the neighboring village of Sonako to study the kora, which provided a foundation for subsequent accomplishments as a guitarist. As his musicianship developed, Djabaté also mastered a wide variety of traditional drums and other percussion instruments.

Music was not a past time or a hobby for the young Djabaté, however, and from a very young age he was obliged to contribute to the family’s income by performing at weddings and baptism ceremonies. Djabaté’s early talents proved both a gift and a burden, as his family often forced him to sing and dance against his will, and he had little time to partake in the carefree fun and games of other children his age.

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Kodé

from the album Karam

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