Bassekou Kouyate is the leading proponent of the Malian ngoni, a lute-like instrument found throughout West Africa.
Having collaborated with a number of Western musicians, including U2 and Carlos Santana, Kouyate is one of the world's most visible African artists. He was born in a rural village on the bank of the Niger River, close to the city of Segu. Bassekou was surrounded by music from a young age, his mother a regionally known singer and his father and brothers all renowned ngoni players. He was steeped in traditional Malian music and apprenticed on the ngoni until moving to Bamako at the age of 19. Having moved to the city, he was soon discovered by and began working with Toumani Diabaté, recording a number of successful albums throughout the late '80s. His marriage shortly thereafter to vocalist Ami Sacko would make their household one of the most significant musical institutions in Mali's cultural landscape. When not touring, the husband/wife team performed constantly throughout the region for festivals and parties, becoming Malian folk music heroes. Kouyate's professional relationship with Diabaté reached its pinnacle in 1999 with the release of Kulanjan, a joint venture between the African legend and blues/world music icon Taj Mahal. Kouyate's work on the project would prompt Taj Mahal to call him "a musical genius, and proof that the blues belongs to Segu." Kouyate received invitations to work with a series of well-established artists, including African music legend Ali Farka Touré. His contributions to Farka Touré's final release, Savane, earned Kouyate the prestige needed to form and record his own band, Ngoni Ba. The Munich-based Out Here Records released the band's debut, Segu Blue, a collection of music for ngoni quartet. Segu Blue experienced success beyond expectations, racking up high sales and appearing on world music charts all over Europe. From 2004-2006 he was a key contributor and co-writer with guitarist and songwriter Leni Stern on her acclaimed album Africa, which was released in 2007. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez, Rovi