Toumani Diabate - The Basics:
Toumani Diabate was born on August 10, 1965, in Mali, West Africa. He is of the griot or djeli caste, a lineage of musicians which can be traced over 70 generations, according to family oral tradition. Toumani Diabate plays the kora, a 21-stringed harp made from a calabash gourd, an instrument which has changed little over centuries. He was a child prodigy, who began playing at age 5 and performing by age 13.
Toumani Diabate's Recordings:
Toumani Diabate made his international debut with 1988's Kaira, an album often acknowledged as the finest solo kora work ever recorded. In the 20 years that followed, Diabate focused mainly on collaborative work, recording with both his fellow Malians (including Ali Farka Toure, Ballake Sissoko, and Vieux Farka Toure) as well as musicians of international renown (including Taj Mahal, Bjork, and flamenco group Ketama). Diabate also recorded with The Symmetric Orchestra, a group of griots that he hand-selected from across West Africa. In 2008, he released The Mande Variations, his first solo kora record in 20 years.
Awards and Honors:
Toumani Diabate has been honored and feted around the globe for his accomplishments. Most notably, in 2004, he was the first Black African to receive the Zyriab des Virtuoses, a UNESCO prize. He also won the Grammy Award in the Best Traditional World Music Album category for In the Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with Ali Farka Toure, who unfortunately passed away shortly before the record was released.