Lansiné Kouyaté see Lansine Kouyate
As youngest son of the famous Malian female bard Siramori Diabaté, Lansiné is born into the tradition of the Kela griots (French term for West African bards/diplomats). This group of griots is particularly recognized for its narrations of the Sundjata epopee. His mother remains for many Malian people one of the greatest jelimusow (female bard) who paved the way for Malians modern female singers.
Lansiné began playing the balafon with his father Nankoman Kouyaté. As he was still too young to join the famous national music groups of Mali, he first participated in local ceremonies in his home region within the Kangaba district, located about 100km from Bamako. At the age of 12, he was chosen by the national competition “Biennale” to join the prestigious « Ensemble instrumental national du Mali » (Malian National Instrumental Orchestra) where he met Ballaké Cissoko, Baba Sissoko, Toumani Diabaté and other artists.
In 1984 Lansiné’s first trip out of Mali was to France on a tour, where in 1989 he settled to play with his uncle Kassé Mady Diabaté’s group. In the 90s Lansiné played for six years with Salif Keita and world toured with his group. Since then, he has performed with a wide range of artists: Mory Kanté, Baaba Maal, Moriba Koita, Manu Dibango, Positive Black Soul, Sekouba Bambino, Hank Jones, Jean-Jacques Avenel, Cheick Tidiane Seck, etc. Building on his traditional music heritage, he discovered jazz and modern compositions but also theatre and other more experimental projects. He currently plays in Dee Dee Bridgewater’s world tour.
Besides this vast musical career as balafonist of internationally reknown artists, Lansiné has always devoted his time to develop his own music project. Since 2005 he has built his own group with his friend David Neerman, a vibraphone player. Following various concerts in the Parisian suburbs, they eventually recorded their first CD, named after his native village “Kangaba”. It will be relased in September 2008 at Universal .
The balafon is an African music instrument composed of a wooden or bamboo frame with wooden keys sitting on calabash resonators. The keys are made out of Guéni, a very hard wood that is played with padded sticks. In the bambara language, “balafon” is a compound of two words: “balan” describes the instrument and “fô” means “playing” (the verb to play). Balafon thus means “playing the balan”.
As griot culture is a hereditary caste, the Kouyaté family has been called the “keepers of the balafon”. Lansiné is no exception. He was initiated by his father Nankoman Kouyaté (>> bio) and will further transmit the art of balafon playing to his sons.
As all true balafon jelis, Lansiné constructs his balafons himself. The keys are cut carefully and tuned to the sound of each calabash. He also adapts his instruments according to his specific needs. Most of the time he plays a heptatonic balafon with 23 keys. But he also developed his own system with two balafons that he puts together in order to have the same scale as a piano (one for the white keys, one for the black keys) and thereby enlarges his music to modern balafon styles.
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