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Sékouba “Bambino” is the stage name of Sékouba Diabaté. He was born in the village of Kintinya in Guinea close to the border of Mali. Raised in a musical family descended from a long line of griots, his mother died when he was three years old, leaving behind a strong collection of songs she’d recorded. Bambino wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps, but his father discouraged him from pursuing music, hoping his son would follow him working for his transport company. By the time Bambino was eight years old, his mind was made up and he started singing in local bands. At the age of sixteen, President Sékou Touré heard Bambino sing and encouraged him to join Guinea’s most popular group, Bembeya Jazz. He joined the band in 1983 and adopted his stage name to distinguish him from one of the group’s guitarists, Sekou Diabaté (a.k.a. Sekou “Bembeya” a.k.a. “Diamond Fingers”).
Sékouba Bambino’s commanding and impressive voice quickly took West Africa by storm. After touring and recording with Bembeya Jazz for several years, he released his debut solo album in 1991. In between releasing albums, Bambino sang with the African salsa group, Africando. One of his more popular solo efforts was 1994’s Syli nationale (“National Elephant”), which was a tribute to Guinea’s national football team. Sterns Music recently released an amazing album entitled The Griot’s Craft, an all acoustic affair which brings out the best of Sékouba Bambino’s skills as a songwriter. Bambino’s voice sounds better than ever as he is backed by 15 musicians, providing the perfect backdrop to his compositions. He praises patrons and condemns female circumcision on this strong release full of sweet grooves. While Bambino is not as well known as he should be outside of West Africa, The Griot’s Craft should remind the rest of the world how important this master musician is. Sample the album above or on soundcloud and watch an amazing performance of Sékouba Bambino and his band below or on youtube. The crowd goes crazy for him.