|Habib Koité & Bamada|
d'une grande lignée de griots
Khassonké, Habib Koité vient tout naturellement
à la musique.
l'école secondaire, Habib est destiné à
une carrière d'ingénieur, mais sur le conseil de son oncle, il franchit
les portes de l'Institut National des Arts (INA) à Bamako où il étudie
la musique pendant quatre ans.
Diplômé en 1982, Habib est sollicité par l'INA pour enseigner la guitare. Pendant cette période, il a l'occasion de travailler et de jouer avec toute une série de musiciens maliens reconnus; comme Kélétigui Diabaté (Balafon) et Toumani Diabaté (Kora), à qui il prêta voix et guitare sur l'album "Shake the World".
1988, Habib Koité forme son propre groupe,
Bamada (surnom des habitants de
Bamako, signifiant: "dans la gueule du crocodile",
avec de jeunes musiciens maliens; tous amis d'enfance ou 'petits frères'.
Parmi eux, Baba Sissoko,
excellent percussionniste traditionnel, lui aussi originaire d'une grande
famille de griots.
1991, Habib Koité gagne le premier prix
au Festival Voxpole de Perpignan, ce qui lui permet d'enregistrer deux
morceaux; dont le désormais célèbre "Cigarette A Bana" ("La
cigarette, c'est fini") qui fut un hit à travers toute l'Afrique
janvier 1995, Michel De Bock et Habib; qui
se sont rencontrés à Abidjan au début 94 grâce à la complicité de Souleymane
Koly du Koteba, décident de travailler ensemble et d'enregistrer enfin
un premier album. "Muso Ko" voit le jour et est présenté au Masa (Marché
du Spectacle Africain) à Abidjan en avril 1995.
Imprégné des légendes de son pays sans occulter les réalités de la société actuelle, Habib Koité a développé son propre style; mélange de musique et d'instruments traditionnels maliens (tamani, balafon, n'goni,...) s'alliant harmonieusement au son particulier de sa guitare qu'il joue tel un "kamalé n'goni".
L'auteur-compositeur a su habilement mêler le passé au présent dans ses textes marqués par la fable et l'allégorie. Ses compositions révèlent un style nourri de nombreuses traditions du Mali où chaque région possède sa propre identité culturelle.
un pays où la plupart des artistes sont enfermés dans une tradition
ethnique, l'habilité d'Habib Koité à façonner
les différentes traditions de son pays est inhabituelle."
Koité comes from a noble line of Khassonké griots.
He developed his unique guitar style accompanying his griot mother.
He inherited his passion for music from his paternal grandfather who
played the kamelen
n’goni, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated
with hunters from the Wassoulou 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."
In January 1995, Habib met his current manager, Belgian Michel De Bock. Working together, they recorded his first album Muso Ko. Upon its release the album quickly reached #3 in the European World Music Charts. From that point forward, Habib became a fixture on the European festival circuit and began to spread his infectious music and high energy shows around the world.
Habib’s second album, Ma Ya, was released in Europe in 1998 to widespread acclaim. It spent an amazing three months at the top spot on the World Charts Europe. A subtle production which revealed a more acoustic, introspective side of Habib’s music, Ma Ya was released in North America by Putumayo World Music in early 1999 and quickly helped establish Habib as one of world music’s most exciting new figures.
In February 1999, in support of the US debut of Ma Ya, Habib Koité and blues artist Eric Bibb were the featured artists on Putumayo’s Mali to Memphis theme tour, educating audiences across the country about the connections between the blues and Malian music. Habib returned with his band later that year, lighting up festival stages and concert halls around the country.
The critical and commercial response to Ma Ya in the US was tremendous. Habib was featured in People Magazine, Rolling Stone, and the cover of Rhythm magazine. He has also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, WXPN’s World Café, PRI’s The World, and the House of Blues Radio Hour “Mali to Memphis” special. Ma Ya spent an unprecedented 20 weeks in the top 20 of the College Music Journal New World music chart, and broke new ground at AAA rock radio, spending several months in regular rotation on commercial stations across the country. The album has sold 40,000 units in North America and about 75,000 worldwide, which is a tremendous success for a new world music artist.
Habib’s artistry and powerful personality earned him the adoration of fans such as Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, both of whom ended up visiting Habib in Mali. They have both done a great deal to support Habib’s music, by promoting private events designed to attract new audiences and even performing live with Habib on stage.
In the fall of 2000, Habib participated in the “Voices of Mali” tour with Oumou Sangare, one of West Africa’s most popular artists. The tour was a phenomenal success, selling out large-capacity concert halls around the US and Canada. While Sangare was the more recognized name, Habib quickly won over the audiences, creating new fans and proving that he was an artist of tremendous crossover potential. During the West Coast leg of the tour, Habib was joined on stage by Bonnie Raitt, who jammed with him in front of ecstatic sell-out crowds in the Bay Area, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
Baro continues where Ma Ya left off, with a set of haunting melodies and virtuoso guitar playing. Habib is backed by Kélétigui Diabaté, Mali’s undisputed king of the Balafon (a West African wooden-keyed xylophone), who recorded with Lionel Hampton in the 1960s. With the support of the rest of the talented members of Bamada, Koité swings from the Cuban-influenced grooves of “Batoumanbe” to the ethereal and entrancing “Sinamaw.” The acoustic, unadorned arrangements reflect centuries of Malian tradition, while incorporating subtle Western influences to create songs that appeal to people from all walks of life. Baro even includes a new, Latin-style version of Koité’s first hit “Cigarette A Bana” the track that made him a star in West Africa.
Habib takes some unique approaches to playing the guitar. He tunes his instrument to the pentatonic scale and plays on open strings as one would on a kamale n'goni. At other times Habib plays music that sounds closer to the blues or flamenco, two styles he studied under Khalilou Traoré a veteran of the legendary Afro-Cuban band Maravillas du Mali. Unlike the griots, his singing style is restrained and intimate with varying cadenced rhythms and melodies.
Mali has rich and diverse musical traditions, which have many regional variations and styles that are particular to the local cultures. Habib is unique because he brings together different styles, creating a new pan-Malian approach that reflects 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.”
With one foot in the past and the other in the future, Habib Koité is an artist for a generation that has witnessed the breaking down of cultural barriers. While he respects and treasures the music of his ancestors, Habib also envisions a day when village chiefs will communicate with the world from his grass-thatched hut via a computer. Habib’s music proves that we do not have to forsake the past in order to develop, and that the modern world, for all of its benefits, needs to keep its links to the folklore, mythology and history of the people in order for it to retain its soul.