Diabel Cissokho grew up in Dakar, Senegal among a family of musicians. From an early age, Diabel showed a deep interest in music and while he learned to play a number of instruments, the kora became his primary choice. The Cissokhos are part of a long lineage of griots from West Africa. For the past few years, Diabel recorded and toured extensively with his family’s band, Bannaya. In addition to playing kora for Baaba Maal’s band, Diabel has performed with Kandia Kouyate, Pee Wee Ellis, Nuru Kane, Daby Balde, Omar Pene and Abdou Diop. Now the time has come for singer, songwriter, kora player, multi-instrumentalist and producer Diabel Cissokho to step out with his own album. Kanabory Siyama was released worldwide a while ago, but recently saw a US release on World Village. Justin Adams, who played with Diabel in the DNA Culture Project, was personally invited to Dakar to spend time with the Cissokho family at their compound.
“The Cissokho family have the benefit of a deep culture that goes back to the Middle Ages where music occupies a central, life-affirming position in society, along with a 21st century youthful dynamism that defies the world to ignore them. Groove, melody and soul – and those voices hitting you like an Atlantic wave. It’s irresistible.” – Justin Adams
Kanabory Siyama translates to “don’t run from your ethnicity,” which is a recurring theme throughout the album. Diabel is part of the Mande griot tradition. The Mande Empire famously brought about a 200 year period of peace and prosperity that united small kingdoms and ethnic groups together through organized farming and trade from West Africa’s southern coast to the northern reaches of the Sahara Desert.
For his first solo debut record, Diabel brings in a talented cast of musicians, using at least a dozen members of his own family. Recorded in the UK and Dakar, Kanabory Siyama is full of Mande grooves touching upon jazz, blues and soul with lyrics sung in Bambana, Wolof and Peul. The rhythmic propulsion of Diabel’s kora playing ignites this record, revealing a talented performer preserving and continuing a timeless tradition. He also plays electric guitar, bass, ngoni and percussion on this impressive debut. Listen to a sample of Kanabory Siyama above or on soundcloud. To see the band in action, check out their performance of “Lambe” at their session for BBC Radio 3 below or on youtube.