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Diabel Cissokho

Diabel Cissokho

Senegalese musician Diabel Cissokho is part of the great line of Cissokho griots. Growing up in Dakar and Tambacounda, surrounded by a rich musical heritage and a family of musicians, Diabel began playing a number of traditional instruments. However, Diabel’s affinity with the kora was clear from an early age. Diabel’s musical pedigree is exceptional. International tours with his family’s band Bannaya led to a long stint as Baaba Maal’s kora player, as well as with acclaimed musicians such as Kandia Kouyate, Pee Wee Ellis, Omar Pene, Artea Culture de Dakar, Cheikh Lo, Ernest Ranglin and Youssou N’Dour.

A trailblazer and pioneer of the kora, Diabel’s virtuosic talent, his “resonant voice and rocking kora style” (Songlines), have been welcomed everywhere from WOMAD, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Glastonbury, Globaltica, and London’s Barbican, where he performed alongside Femi Kuti, Cheikh Lo and Manu Dibango. Diabel’s success with bluesman Ramon Goose cemented his reputation as a versatile musician, able to effortlessly cross cultures. Their album Mansana Blues was lauded as “a flavoursome mix of slide guitar, mellow kora and undulating Mandinka rhythms” (fRoots) which “delivers moments of steamy pleasure” (Songlines). A 2010 European tour culminated in the DNA Culture Project with Ramon, Robert Plant guitarist Justin Adams, Gambian riti player Juldeh Camara and bassist Julian Joseph at Dakar’s renowned venue Just4You. Diabel’s 2012 album ‘Kanabory Siyama’ marked a return to his roots. Recorded in the UK and Dakar and featuring members of his own family, the album drew on Diabel’s rich musical heritage, blending beautiful Mandinkan melodies with an upbeat West African groove. His album received a four star review in Songlines magazine where he was also a featured artist on their Top of the World CD, as well as receiving nominations for Best Artist and Best Newcomer. Alongside the album’s release, Diabel completed an extensive uk tour at festivals and venues across the UK including the Back2Black festival at the Barbican and a spot at the UK's leading world music festival WOMAD, where he performed and was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and was interviewed by Lucy Duran.

As a regular performer with Africa Express, Diabel was part of the Africa Express train performing with some of Africa and the world’s most renowned musicians including Paul McCartney, Amadou and Mariam, Damon Albarn, Romeo Stodart, Matthieu Chedid, and more. Diabel also performed on 'Later...with Jools Holland' performing alongside Sinead O'Connor, again showing his versatility as an artist. In 2014 Diabel had the premiere of his documentary, filmed by Estrella Sendra, about the history of the griots and how Diabel draws on his heritage as a griot and uses it in his life as a musician today. This film received great feedback in the UK and Europe and continues to be screened internationally. Following a successful 2015 international tour, 2016 saw Diabel release his fourth album ‘Tambacounda Express’, an album that draws on the eclectic mix of cultures that pass through the region where Diabel was born, Tambacounda in Senegal. With influences from Senegal, Mali, to Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, and Morocco, the result is a rhythmically, lyrically and melodically diverse collection of songs with strong roots in the blues, alongside the traditional Mandinkan melodies of his griot ancestry.

Cissokho has spent the best part of his musical career exploring the blues roots of his griot traditions. His 5th album, ‘Rhythm of the Griot’ is focused on exploring and sharing this rich musical history. The album courses with a belief that the griot tradition is accessible to everyone, regardless of the languages they speak. Fiercely proud of his Senegalese griot heritage, Diabel aims to bring his unique Afro Mandingue Blues style to the world, and be an ambassador for the new generation of Senegalese music.



"Griot rock that knows how to roll" ~ ★★★★ Songlines magazine

"The Cissokho family have the benefit of a deep culture that goes back to the Middle ages where music occupies a central, life affirming position in society, along with a 21st century youthful dynamism that defies the world to ignore them. Groove, melody and soul, and those voices hitting you like an Atlantic wave, it's irresistible." ~ Justin Adams, 2012

Diabel Cissokho