Manfila “Dabadou” Kanté was the lead singer of Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, from Guinea, and appears on all of their early Syliphone recordings.  He is not the same guitarist as Kante Manfila of Les Ambassadeurs.  This video is from the early 1990s.

“Toubaka” is a  West African love song of the Malinké people, traditionally played on the kora (harp) or balafon (marimba).

Radio Africa offers a large selection of Guinean music, including many more videos of Manfila “Dabadou” Kante.

View video here.


Touba ka literally means “a man from Touba”. He is the symbol of trust and he loves to travel. Anytime he arrives in a village it is an occasion to celebrate. But the village members are also eager to know when the Touba Ka will leave so that they can give him messages to bring to family members living far away.

“Toubaka stands apart from the bulk of the jeli’s (griot’s) repertory not only because it is a love song, but also because of its extended harmonic scheme of four chords that unfold over a relatively long stretch of time. It probably originated in Upper Guinea, perhaps from Kankan, on the guitar or accordion in the 1930s if not earlier. It is a favorite of guitarists from Upper Guinea, who excel in playing it.

Some verses of “Toubaka”:

The oldest word Is undoubtedly the word “love”, Forgive me, my beloved one, If I have hurt you.

I am coming to you, my beloved one. Not in order for you to give me anything, I am coming to you, my beloved one, Simply because I love you.

And may you know, o my beloved one, That the first characteristic Of nobility Is the respect for one’s pledge.

And since people are not all alike Do not rank me, o my love, With those who deny their promises.

Tou left. Oh, the Toubaka, living in Touba, Tou left.

Tou, I pray thee, I beg you, Take my letters to my children and parent.

Do everything to see me again. Do not go without me.


One Response to “Toubaka”

  1. Mike Says:

    Great to read some of the background on this-been playing it nonstop since I first heard it and wondering what it was about.

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