BALLA KOUYATE
 
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BORN GRIOT

Balla Kouyaté was born in Mali and was raised in the Djeli tradition. His knowledge of the traditional Malain repertoire is unparalleled. Today, the first balafon, over 1000 years old, remains in his family, guarded by his father, El Hadji Sekou Kouyaté. It is considered a UNESCO Artifact of Oral and Intangible History. In 1994, he joined the renowned Ensemble Nationale du Mali. By 1997 he was playing with singer Ami Koïta for 27 African presidents. Balla has toured extensively with artists, like Sekouba Bambino and Kassé Madi Diabaté, in Europe and Africa. Since coming to the US in 2000, his collaborations with Western artists in a variety of musical styles brought the need for innovation. He thus created a chromatic instrument, using two balafons. Balla’s superior musicianship has been featured on over 45 recorded, even Grammy award winning albums, including Silkroad’s Sing Me Home, Yo-Yo Ma’s, Songs of Joy and Peace, Angelique Kidjo’s Oyo, and Vusi Mahlasela’s Say Africa. Balla is currently working on a second album of his original music featuring members of his family. His music has been recorded for the Library of Congress and heard in venues such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and The Kennedy Center as well as numerous festivals around the world. As an educator he has given lectures/demonstrations and master classes in universities and schools across the country, including Harvard University, MIT, Berklee School of Music and CalArts. Balla is currently teaching faculty for SilkRoad's Global Musician's Workshop and New England Conservatory. He is the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Artist Fellowship and the 2015 Brother Thomas Fellowship. 

 

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