Kandia Kouyate



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Mali's Kandia Kouyate has achieved a popularity in West Africa reserved only for the greatest of singers. One of the most famous female singers of the Mandinka people, she is a Jalimusa, a female griot (praise singer and oral historian), whose vibrant spirit and startling powerful vocals have made her one of the true divas of African song.

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While others have made careers for themselves in the world of pop by churning out dozens of increasingly electric recordings, Kouyate has remained true to her roots and honed her art. Her arrangements are pioneering, but always within an essentially traditional framework. Kandia Kouyate's remarkably powerful contralto voice has a spiritual force and fiery beauty. Her soulfulness and power border on the expressiveness of Salif Keita, but she also has a natural vibrato and impeccable rhythm and timing, that make her song-styles incredibly diverse.

Kandia Kouyate released her first solo album, Kita Kan (The Voice of Kita), on Sterns in May 1999. The critically acclaimed album pays tribute to Kita, her hometown, and to her heritage as a Kita jali (griot). It features traditional accompaniment on kora (12 string harp-lute), balafon (xylophone) and bolon (bass harp), along with several tracks featuring more modern arrangements with guitar and strings.

Kandia Kouyate's tour of Ireland in 2003 officially launched the FeileAfrica movement in Cork City.

Kandia suffered a stroke in 2004 and it is feared that she may never tour or record again. We send her our best wishes for a full recovery.

What the press said about "Kita Kan"

"Ms. Kouyate sang imperiously about ancient Malian nobility and its modern heirs. Onstage Ms. Kouyate was a regal presence. Brandishing a ceremonial fly whisk handed down from an ancestor who was a hunter, an honored vocation in Mali, she unleashed a magnificent voice that could slice through walls, then ease back to gentle persuasion. ... With those in the audience hanging on every improvisatory phrase, whether or not they understood the language, Ms. Kouyate was indomitable."........... New York Times (Feb. 19, 2002)

"Infused with vibrant spirit, depth and warmth, Kita Kan is the celebratory showcase of a true diva. You’re in the presence of greatness" .........Folk Roots

"An international star in the making"..................... The Guardian

"…like a female Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, capable of the tenderest, most haunting love songs."....................Straight No Chaser

"…you’re feeling the full force of Kouyaté’s magisterial contralto" ..................Songlines

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See also:
Leopard Man's African Music Guide
BBC Review

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Last modified: 02/23/11