Tani Diakite, from Mali, West Africa, is a musical force who has inspired an entire community of artists in Wisconsin and the Midwest. With his kamale n’goni, a West African ancestor to the banjo, and his plaintive singing, he never fails to drop the deepest blues around.
The kamale n’goni is an instrument that originates from Wassoulou, a region on the border of Mali and Guinea, West Africa. It is derived from the larger donso n’goni, which means “hunter’s harp”. Throughout the centuries, Malian hunters were also skilled musicians who used their trance-like music to appease the spirits of the animals they hunted, so as not to be plagued by evil spirits.
The kamale n’goni is a smaller, more popular version of this instrument. It is the centerpiece of a popular style of music from Mali called Wassoulou Music. When you hear the blues played by Tani Diakite and the Afrofunkstars, you’ll understand why it is often said that Mali is the birthplace of the blues. The kamale n’goni is one of several African instruments that preceded the banjo, so you’ll hear similarities to bluegrass music as well.