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Biography


Prince Diabaté hails from a prominent, Malinké family from Guinea, West Africa. He learned his art from his father, Djéli Sori Diabaté. Breaking with tradition, his father also taught Prince's mother, Hadja Djéli Sira Cissoko, to play kora. The young boy became an exceptionally early starter by accompanying his parents to their concerts throughout West Africa. Despite his father's disapproval, he decided to make music his life. When he was eight years old, former Guinean President, Sekou Touré, came to his home town, Kindia, for a celebration in Independence Square. Braving the outraged soldiers and his own fear, the young musician grasped his kora, threw himself at the President's feet and played a special song for him. Greatly touched by his skill and audacity, Sekou Touré became his benefactor, enrolling him into the National Children's Theatre in Conakry. At 16 years of age, in Abijan, Ivory Coast, he stumbled upon a videocassette of Jimi Hendrix and, inspired by what he heard, entered an international kora competition. Taking first prize,that day he became known as 'Prince Diabaté, Prince of the Kora.'

In 1986 he met the singer, Amara Sanoh, and the two started to perform together. After 12 successful years on the international festival circuit, touring in Africa, Europe, Canada and the USA, they disbanded and Prince Diabate settled in Los Angeles, USA. Prince Diabate has released three CDs: Lamaranaa (Buda Musique/Allegro) in 1993, New Life (Sunrise Records/Orchard) in 2001, which features guest artists Michael Brook and Hassan Hakmoun. His latest album, Djerelon (Kora Company Collection) was recorded in Guinea, Conakry in 2006. It is arranged and produced by Kante Manfila, longtime collaborator of Salif Keita.The album won the People's Choice Awards (Vox Populi) in the Independent Music Awards for 2007: World Music (Traditional) category. Lamaranaa and New Life are available as digital downloads with Virgin France and Itunes and Djerelon is available through Itunes.

Considered to be one of the leading kora players of his generation, Prince Diabaté brings not only total mastery over his ancestral tradition, but a commitment to renew it through fresh ideas and exchanges with musicians from many cultures. His years in the USA produced collaborations with artists and groups as diverse as The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Adam del Monte (Flamenco) Hassan Hakmoun (Gnawa) and Grammy winners Michael Brook (guitarist-producer-composer) and Ozomatli (Hip-Hop fusion.) The musically adventurous griot has incorporated reggae, rap and blues into his work and, further developing his "Jimi Hendrix" technique, also punctuates his work by the occasional, funky use of the wah-wah pedal. Recently, he has adapted the music of the Wassolou to his repertoire, which he plays, self-taught and kora-style, on the kamelen n'goni. The result is entirely his own creation: a fresh, powerful brand of twenty-first century Manden music, which remains strongly rooted in traditional codes and references.

In 2001, he recorded with Ozomatli on Embrace The Chaos, their Grammy-winning CD. In 2002, he was a nominee for the LA Weekly Music Awards and the New Times Music Awards. He was also a finalist in the International Acoustic Music Awards for 2004; the Unisong Contest for 2005-2006; the International Songwriting Contest for 2004 & 2005; and took first prize in the 2005 and 2006 Pacific Songwriting Competition.

His work has attracted grants from Arts International; Alliance for California Traditional Arts; Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the Durfee Foundation. Prince Diabate also maintains an active schedule as a lecturer on aspects of Mandinka music. His clients to date include colleges and universities in California, Washington State and New York. He also participates in various film and television projects in Hollywood.

These days Prince Diabate is based in France, but is often on the move, performing with his groups based in Los Angeles, USA and Marseille/Paris, France; and he returns frequently to Guinea. His latest venture is a collaboration entitled Kora Friends, with two of his childhood friends and fellow kora players, N'faly Kouyate and Ba Cissoko, both from Guinea and both based in Europe. In September 2009, this trio of griots unveiled their more traditional repertoire at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England, to great acclaim.