African Music Encyclopedia

Prince Diabaté

Prince Diabaté hails from a prominent, Mandingo, family from Guinea, West Africa. A griot from both sides of his family, he learned his art from his father, Djéli Sori Diabaté. Breaking with tradition, his father also taught Prince's mother, Hadja Djéli Sira Cissoko, to play kora. The young boy became an exceptionally early starter by accompanying his parents to their concerts throughout West Africa. Despite his father's disapproval, he decided to make music his life. In 1981, he won his first international contest in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and acquired his nickname, 'Prince Diabaté, Prince of the Kora.'

In 1986 he met the singer, Amara Sanoh, and the two started to perform together. They disbanded in 1998. A world class musician, Prince Diabaté has toured in Africa, Europe, Canada and the US, developing a unique style, characterized by a dazzlingly fast technique and a dynamic stage presence. He has recorded two CDs: 'Lamaranaa' in 1993, which was awarded a 4 star rating, and 'Ko Allah Wallata' in 1998; his third CD, 'New Life,' is due for release on Sunrise Records in 2001.

Although his main sources of inspiration stem from the traditional Mandingo or Malinké repertoire, he borrows happily from reggae, rap, blues and funk, and is often referred to as the "Jimi Hendrix" of the kora. He sings in Malinké, Susu, Peulh, Wolof, French and English, but rejects classification and embraces innovation. Prince Diabaté brings not only a unique mastery over his ancestral tradition, but a commitment to renew it with fresh ideas and exchanges with musicians from other cultures. Currently resident in Los Angeles, he performs with his acoustic trio, his fusion band, as well as solo and with his traditional Guinean band. In addition, he has created a totally new sound, 'Mandingo Reggae' which is featured on 'New Life.'

Prince's website:

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