Artist Profiles: Habib Koité

Habib Koité – Photo by Dirk Leunis

Habib Koité comes from a great line of Malian Khassonké jalis. He studied music for four years at the National Institute of Arts (NIA) in Bamako, where he continued to teach guitar after his graduation in 1982. Koité’s association with the NIA provided the opportunity to work and play with a line-up of notable Malian musicians including Kélétigui Diabaté and Toumani Diabaté.

In 1988, Koité formed his own band, Bamada, which toured extensively throughout Mali. Winning first prize at the Perpignan Voxpole Festival in 1991 afforded him the chance to record the hugely successful single “Cigarette A Bana,” which scored a major hit throughout West Africa. Following the release of his next single “Nanale,” Koité was awarded the prestigious Discovery of 1993: Media-Adami Award by Radio France International (RFl). His album Muso Ko went straight to the top of the European World Music Charts.

Koité has developed his own style, which draws upon the rich traditions of Malian music mixed with his own modern sound. He has successfully adapted the chords and “feel” of the traditional kamale ngoni (youth’s harp) to his electric guitar, while delving into the deep traditions of Malian music to mingle the sounds of the tama and bala instruments with music from the Bambara, northern Takamba and Songhai regions.


Muso Ko (Contre-Jour, 1995)
Ma Ya (Contre-Jour, 1998)
Baro (Putumayo World Music/Contre-Jour, 2001
Fôly ! Live Around The World (Contre-Jour, 2003)
Afriki (Cumbancha, 2007)
Acoustic Africa in concert (2011)
Brothers in Bamako (Stony Plain Records, 2012)
Soô (Contre-Jour, 2014)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel is also co-founder of the Transglobal World Music Chart.

Angel has also produced and remastered world music studio albums and compilations for labels such as Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, and Music of the World.


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