Archive for the ‘Cheick Hamala Diabate’ Category

James Leva and Cheick Hamala Diabate

May 18, 2014

Cheick Hamala Diabate is a West African historian in the Griot tradition, and a world-recognized master of the ngoni, a Malian traditional instrument.  A steward of the 800 year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa, Cheick Hamala shares the oral history, music and song of his culture as it was passed on to him from birth by parent to child. At an early age, Cheick Hamala easily mastered the ngoni, a stringed lute and ancestor to the banjo.

Upon coming to the US, Cheick Hamala was intrigued by the resemblance between his beloved ngoni and the American banjo, even sharing tunings and picking styles.  Cheick’s album of banjo duets with Carlin, From Mali to America, was nominated for a grammy in 2007 for Best Traditional World Music Album.


From Mali to America

November 3, 2011

Cheik Hamala Diabate and Bob Carlin (5-String Productions, 2008)

Two master music makers — one from Mali in West Africa, the other from the United States — join together in a cross-cultural program that creates a musical dialogue between two traditions. From Mali to America blends the musical traditions of West Africa and America. Since the American banjo grew from Western African roots, this exploration should come as no surprise. What is surprising is that it has taken this long for the ngoni and banjo to join together to explore and illuminate this obscure corner of American musical history. This collaboration by masters from two musical cultures features a dialogue that blends seamlessly and demonstrates the common roots of their music and instruments.    (from

Diabate and Carlin play “Konkoba:”

Also below is an ngoni/clawhammer banjo duet between Bassekou Kouyate and Dirck Westervelt from “In Griot Time” (Stern’s Africa, 2000).

Kouyate and Westerveldt play “Wild Goose Chase:”