Kassé Mady Diabaté Announces US Tour Dates

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For almost half a century Kassé Mady Diabaté has been recognized as one of West Africa’s finest singers. He is a descendant of the most distinguished griot family of the ancient Manding Empire, the Diabatés of Kéla, and his name, alongside other griot legends Toumani Diabaté and Bassékou Kouyaté, is equivalent to musical royalty in Mali. Kassé Mady Diabaté will be touring the U.S. in September and October with shows in Chicago (9/21), Northfield, MN (9/24), Seattle (9/25) and NYC (10/1).

Music became a formidable political tool and turned the hereditary Manding musicians or djelis (griots) into a powerful caste. Today, having survived centuries of change and turmoil, that caste is still flourishing. Drawing on themes as old as the empire itself and melodies learned in childhood, the modern griots still mediate for social order. It explains how an artist such as Kassé Mady Diabate can rise to such a degree of excellence and become a national treasure in Mali.

Kasse’s new album Kiriké (out now on Six Degrees Records) has provided a platform for Kassé Mady to celebrate his position as one of Mali’s greatest voices in distinguished company. The album is the third in a series of four born out of the friendship between the young Malian kora maestro Ballaké Sissokoand the iconoclastic French cellist Vincent Segal. This friendship has resulted in three beautiful albums, Chamber Music (2009), At Peace (2012), and Musique de nuit (2015) all released on Six Degrees Records in the US. Kirike, like the other albums in the series, exemplifies a more intimate musical current that has been emerging in Bamako, one that’s closer to the acoustic sound of tradition.

The centerpiece is Kassé Mady’s voice. He sings in Bambara, the dominant language of southern Mali, and in doing so ‘the man with the voice of velvet’ reveals an altogether different personality: an old man of the soil grumbling at the margins of his field in a language infinitely rootsier and more flavorsome than the grand Malinké of the classic griot praise-songs. A fifty-year long career hasn’t blunted his high-notes, but rather added richness to the astonishing gentleness of his baritone, making his voice better suited to this ‘chamber music’ than to the brilliant sheen of fusionistic pop.  It is a sound attuned to the modern ear, a consecration of one of Mali’s greatest voices.

Meanwhile the trio represent three major elements in Manding music: the koramusic of Casamance, the balafon of the central zone and the more bitter sounding ngoni, so reminiscent of the northern deserts of Mali. And the music onKiriké keeps faith with that contemporary acoustic Bamako sound; the subtlety and simplicity of Vincent Segal’s approach allows the musicians to pour out their art with liberated ease, and show new facets of their talent. The ngoni, at once melodic and percussive, takes pole position, its stunning improvisations (‘Douba Diabira’) promising to dazzle amateurs of both Bach and jazz, of the gnaoua of Morocco and the trance music of Madagascar. The balafon and the kora conjure up novel moods, as in the liquid accompaniment they provide on the song ‘Sadjo’. And drawing all the sounds together is the stunning voice of Kassé Mady, dazzling with its range and power.

A griot to the core, Kassé Mady expresses himself almost entirely through his music, transcribing all of the nuances of the human soul into song. He is not especially at ease with the spoken word, and is known to all who come across him for his modest and peaceful character. But when he sings, his delivery embodies the power of his message it is this that cements his position as “the greatest singer in Mali”, as described by fellow countryman Salif Keita.

US Tour Dates:

09/21 @ Chicago World Music Festival [Mayne Stage], Chicago, IL
09/24 @ Carleton College, Northfield, MN
09/25 @ Town Hall, Seattle, WA
10/01 @ Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

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