Artist Profiles: Fode Lassana Diabaté

Fode Lassana Diabaté
Fode Lassana Diabaté

Fode Lassana Diabaté was born in Conakry, Guinea, in 1971 into a family of virtuoso bala (balaphone) players, Lassana Diabaté has been playing the bala since he was five years old. He moved as a young man to Bamako (Mali) in the early 1990s. He has since become one of Mali’s most gifted player of the 22-key xylophone of the Mandé jelis (griots), appearing on albums by Salif Keita, Bassekou Kouyate, and Kasse Mady Diabaté, among others, and has been a long-standing member of Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra. He also played on Kulanjan, Toumani’s celebrated collaboration with the American bluesman Taj Mahal.

An innovator on his instrument, on the AfroCubism project, he can be heard playing two balaphones tuned a semi-tone apart, extending the harmonic range of what is a fixed pitch instrument and allowing greater scope for improvisation.


Kulanjan (1999)
Boulevard de l’Independance (World Circuit, 2006), with Symmetric Orchestra
AfroCubism (World circuit, 2010)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


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