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Habib Koité

Habib Koité

Habib Koité: rare UK tour

One of Africa’s most respected guitarists, Habib Koité, is back on tour in the UK for the first time in a decade, and comes to St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, for a family friendly show on Sunday 22 October at 3pm.

The show comes as part of this year’s AfriKàBa Festival which showcases work from artists with African and Caribbean heritage. Habib will be joined on stage by his longtime band Bamada – and very special guest performers, Hastings’ own world music choir Vocal Explosion led by Juliet Russell.


Kamele n’goni Image

Habib comes from a noble line of Khassonké griots, traditional troubadors who provide wit, wisdom and musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events. Habib grew up surrounded by seventeen brothers and sisters, and developed his unique guitar style accompanying his griot mother. He inherited his passion for music from his paternal grandfather who played the kamele n’goni, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated with hunters from the Wassolou region of Mali.

“Nobody really taught me to sing or to play the guitar,” explains Habib, “I watched my parents, and it washed off on me.”

Habib is unique because he brings together different styles, reflecting his open-minded interest in all types of music. The predominant style played by Habib is based on the danssa, a popular rhythm from his native city of Keyes. He calls his version ‘danssa doso’, a Bambara term he coined that combines the name of the popular rhythm with the word for hunter’s music (doso), one of Mali’s most powerful and ancient musical traditions.

“I put these two words together to symbolize the music of all ethnic groups in Mali. I’m curious about all the music in the world, but I make music from Mali. In my country, we have so many beautiful rhythms and melodies. Many villages and communities have their own kind of music. Usually, Malian musicians play only their own ethnic music, but me, I go everywhere. My job is to take all these traditions and to make something with them, to use them in my music.”

Habib believes in the power of music to build bridges, and his songs speak of peace, unity and togetherness, universal messages that have never been more timely.

Habib Koité

Habib Koité

“People here in Africa are willing to risk death trying to leave for Europe or the USA, but they are not willing to take that risk staying to develop something here in Africa,” says Habib. “Life can be really good or really bad wherever you live. People need to understand that. Even though Mali is poor, we still have good quality of life: You can walk outside and smile and someone will smile back. I have thought about it a lot, and I am not sure if poor countries have a worse quality of life.”

Habib’s music is rooted in Malian and West African rhythms and melodies, while embracing a variety of musical styles including blues, flamenco and Afro-Cuban. Habib’s cadenced vocals come in eight languages from Bambara and Mandinka, to French and Spanish. Unlike the griots, his singing style is restrained and intimate with varying cadenced rhythms and melodies.

Habib Koité and Eric Bibb

Habib Koité and Eric Bibb

This singular approach has cemented his position as one of Mali’s most successful musicians, and he has collaborated with everyone from Malian legend Toumani Diabaté to blues greats Eric Bibb (with whom he recorded the 2012 album Brothers in Bamako) and Bonnie Raitt, with Songlines describing him as ‘one of Africa’s most accomplished instrumentalists.’

Support comes from kora virtuoso, Sura Susso. Born into a griot family in Bakoteh, Western Gambia, and the younger brother of kora master, Seckou Keita, Sura Susso will be performing music from his debut album Sila Kang.

Habib Koité at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings on Sunday 22 October at 3pm. Tickets are £30, (concession £15, family ticket £65). Enter the discount code FIVE17 for a discount on full price tickets, (for the first 50 people only). To book visit AfriKàBa Festival.

More information: Habib Koité.

Posted 08:30 Wednesday, Oct 4, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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