Guinean singer Mory Kanté has passed away. The one who had an international success thanks to his hit “Yéké Yéké” died at the age of 70. It was at the hospital of Conakry, the Guinean capital that he gave his last breath following a long illness. It was his son Ballé Kanté who announced it on Friday 22 May 2020 at AFP. “We saw his condition deteriorate quickly, but I was surprised anyway because he had already gone through much worse times. He suffered from chronic diseases and often travelled to France for care, but with the coronavirus it was no longer possible”.
On the facebook page “Death Kanté Official” we can also read: “The team of Communauty managers mobilized after its agreement, to maintain this page dedicated to Mr.Mory Kanté, has the deep pain of announcing to you his death occurred this Friday 22 May 2020 in Conakry! On this sad occasion, she wishes her sorrowful condolences to her biological, professional family, her many admirers in Guinea and around the world. A giant has gone to bed, the electric Griot, universally undisputed maestro of the Kora, is no longer. Peace to his soul. Amine.”.
The tributes rain
The child prodigy of African music began his career in the 1970s, he knew an international glory with his cult song “Yéké Yéké” which was listened and danced in all continents. The one we called the “electric griot”, had an exceptional career that President Alpha Condé wanted to greet on his tweeter page.
On social media tributes rain. Malian artist Mokobe113 spoke of his kindness and his actions in imposing African music all over the world.
The journalist and animator of “Couleurs Tropicales”, Claudy Siar, recounts memories between him and Mory Kanté, the relations between little and big brother and their co-dwelling in the same building in the Parisian suburb of Alfortville.
The singer Salif Keita also paid tribute to him, recalling the moments spent in the Bamako Rail Band.
Heir to the “Djélis” griots tradition
Born in Guinea in 1950, Mory Kanté is the heir to the tradition of griots, the “Djélis” of Mandé, an empire of West Africa that extended from the Atlantic Coast to the Gao region. His mother Fatoumata is of Malian origin and daughter of Djeli Mory Kamissoko who was the spiritual leader of the griots. Mory Kanté goes back and forth between school and learning to play balafon. It was at the age of 15 that her aunt Maman Ba Kassimoko, one of the singers of the National Instrumental Ensemble of Mali living in Bamako, introduced her to the profession.
Mory Kanté will then travel for three good years in the Mandingo way of life and tradition in the village. Back in the city, he discovers and loves to play other world music such as English pop, Congolese rumba, soul, chachacha and mambo of Cuba.
Mory Kanté joins the Bamako Rail Band
The child has talent, he juggles between the guitar and the balafon. He will be spotted by Tidiane Koné, a saxophonist and conductor of the Bamako Rail Band who integrates him as a guitarist in the band. It is in 1975 that he will replace the singer Salif Keïta. This is how he discovers the Kora that he will not leave anymore. He becomes a master in the art of handling this traditional instrument.
The year 1976 is a consecration for the gifted of music, he will receive the trophy of the Voice of Gold in Nigeria. In 1978, he left Abidjan after retiring from the Bamako Rail Band. He goes by his music, seducing Gérard Chess, director of the American label “Ebony Records” which will produce “Courougnégné” the first record of Mory Kanté.
“Yéké Yéké”: The international track
It is at his installation in France that “Yéké Yéké” will become a planetary tube. Mory Kanté will go around the world. The tube will take first place in the pan-European ranking of the “American Billboard”. Everything does not stop there, in 1990, the album “Touma” will pick up the Gold record in France. The artist is invited to present his Symphony of Guinea during an inaugural ceremony of the Grande Arche de la Défense in the department of 92 in Paris, he will be accompanied by 130 griots, musicians and traditional singers. Following this prestigious performance, the artist sets up in Africa a great center of promotion of the Mandingo culture which he dreamed in silence.
Mory Kanté continued his tours from 1994 to 2004, his ambition, he said, “I want to help industrialize African music and culture through this project.” A major European tour continues during the years 2002 and 2003. He gives 120 concerts in more than 25 countries and participates in many cultural events and music festivals.
“Sabou”, this is the album he decided to record in 2004, a totally acoustic album. ” The Guinean” in 2012 and 2019, he participates in the musical project “Las Maravillas de Mali – Africa Mia”.