Kankou Kouyate is a singer who was born in 1993 into one of the most famous djeli (griot) families in Mali, and from the age of 10 was taught music by the maestro Cheick Oumar Diabaté. Descended from three generations of the finest n’goni players in the country – her great-grandfather, the « old lion » Bazoumana Sissoko, her grandfather Djeli Moustapha Kouyaté, and her uncle, the internationally renowned artist Bassekou Kouyaté – it is no surprise that Kankou has a gift for music. Singer-songwriter, influenced by Mali’s rich musical heritage, and by Afro-Cubism and Latin music, Kankou has collaborated with musicians playing both traditional and modern instruments on projects spanning jazz, blues, rap, mandingue, bambara, peulh, Afrobeat, reggae, rock and pop. Her versatility and readiness to explore the possibilities of musical exchanges have allowed her to work with many of the most respected artists in Mali, including Toumani Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate, Habib Koite, Kasse Mady Diabate and Cheick Tidiane Seck. In 2013, with Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and the collective Africa Express, she took part in the album “Maison des Jeunes”, which had worldwide success. Among the participants in the album, she was selected, along with the band Songhoy Blues, to take part in the prestigious album release concert in London. In 2014 she won first prise in the music category in the «Talents de la Cité» competition in Ségou.
In 2017, Kankou met the Scottish musician and producer Mark Mulholland, who has been living in Bamako since 2014. The musical connection between them became clear from their first meeting and in a matter of weeks they had created a repertoire of original songs and started the recording of an album. Ranging from acoustic folk and hypnotic blues to psychedelic rock, their songs blend African and western influences in a fresh and innovative style.
In May 2017 the Parisian musician Olaf Hund came to Bamako for an electronic music performance and DJ set. A longstanding friend and musical collaborator of Mark, the pair have worked together on numerous projects, including the album « The Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra », which they recorded in Haïti in 2014 with Tony Allen, the legendary Afrobeat drummer, and several stars of the Haitian music scene. Mark had the idea to try incorporating electronic elements in the project with Kankou, and organised a gig in a bar in Bamako. The mixture of electronic beats with rock-, blues- and folk-flavoured guitar and Kankou’s magical voice captivated the audience, and Olaf’s contributions to the recording added the final element to the unique musical tapestry woven by Mark and Kankou.
Damon Albarn, Kankou Kouyate & Brian Eno