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Kerfala Kanté – “Ninkéiyédi”
Kerfala Kanté has a rich life history, but there is little information regarding his musical career on the internet. Born into a griot family in the Faranah region of central Guinea, Kanté grew up in the same area as Guinea’s first president Sékou Toure. In 1980, he joined the regional federal orchestra, the Tropical Djoli Band. People began to notice Kanté’s talent and by 1984 he joined one of the great national orchestras, Balla et ses Balladins.
At that time, the orchestra was struggling to gain a bigger audience and the group’s plans were torn asunder when Sékou Toure suddenly died on March 26th and all of the state-sponsored orchestras, as well as the musicians they employed, were left to fend for themselves. Kanté persevered on his own and with the help of Guinean radio, he began releasing solo cassettes of his music.
As the years went by, Kerfala Kanté established himself as one of Guinea’s top male vocalists. His distinct, warm and powerful voice impressed listeners on the Sylla-produced Mandekalou project. The supergroup set out to record “the great griot songs for the benefit of future generations.” They succeeded admirably and both volumes of The Art and Soul of the Mande Griots have been hailed as classics.
Now, Kerfala Kanté has a new record, Biyedi, which is out on Sterns Music. Recorded in Paris in 2011, the multicultural city’s host of international musicians gave Kanté the chance to work with a diverse group of artists. Guests on Biyedi include the winner of the All-Ireland Fleadh for slow airs on the tin whistle in 1985, Michel Sikiotakis, who plays uilleann pipes on the record; Pascal Mikaelian on harmonica and Julia Sarr, who started her musical career as an Afrobeat backing vocalist for Tony Allen. Kerfala Kanté and his friends shine on this album which is full of sweet, rolling rhythms and beautiful harmonies. Don’t miss this great CD from one of Guinea’s most dynamic vocalists.