Sounds of the kora introduced to Ghanafest | Jali Diabate

When Jali Diabate will perform at Ghanafest, the audience will be experiencing a musical aura that says so much about the culture and the social life of many West African people. Diabate comes from this rich musical region as well as a family that is steeped in musical history. In this exclusive interview, this artiste will further explain what makes the kora extraordinary.

Jali Diabate
Jali Diabate

The Kora is a beautiful instrument capable of delivering beautiful melodies and it can also be a bit complex. How can one go about playing it?

The kora sound is like the harp one. The player uses only two fingers, the thumb and index of both hands, to pluck the strings in polyrhythmic patterns  and  the remaining fingers to secure the instrument by holding the hand posts on either side of the strings. The korafola (kora player) could play the music accompaniment and then improvised solo at the same time.

In Malta we will be really excited about this performance, since kora performances have been very few and far between. So what’s in store?

We are very excited about the fact that we are coming to participate in such a singular event as Ghanafest. We have so much news about future projects.  This summer is full of good proposals. Currently, I’m working on various recording projects which involve acoustics, electro acoustic and pure electronic music, blended together with kora sounds.

You come from a popular family known for kora playing. How has the family tradition helped?  

As you noticed, my family tradition goes back to around 1,000 years. Here is a family known for their inevitable role that hand down, or pass on, the history of Western Africa from father to son.  This tradition helped me in my career, and also instilled in me intrinsic values. Knowing such  important things in life go beyond appearances: respect and exaltation of others, respecting and helping one’s neighbour and the elderly, and most importantly, greeting, accepting and integrating with foreigners.


You are based in Sicily and your music has also been, time and again, featured on RAI specialized programmes. How have the Italians related to world music from your experiences?

I have lived in Italy since 2004. I came here as a concert player with a band I had then. Given my musical tastes, personal ambitions and the desire to make music in a particular way,  I assembled the Afro Bougna Band and four years later, came to Italy. My idea was to make kora arrangement into a world music style. My music was accepted and broadcast on various radio stations in Italy, and I ended up featuring in various programmes on Italian television.

Many Italians love world music and West African styles have long been accepted, judging by various artistes who have performed in Italy over the years.

Silnka is your latest album. It also relates a lot to your experiences in Senegal and your new home in Catania over the past decade. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?

It is a work produced by myself. It was done to reach out to a world audience, as well as to a restricted, much narrower Italian audience. It is played almost everywhere through the radio and online radio interests of world music. Silinka encompasses the fundamental themes that have marked humanity, starting from the event ‘griotismo’ through slavery in Africa and latter day slavery and war.   

How have the Italians related to world music from your experiences? How much has Italy helped to shape your music?

All that I have done differently from what I did in my music when I was in my country, I did it here in Italy. I am doing and hope to do so many different things in this country or somewhere else in the world, hoping to discover and learn more in the things that I love doing.

How do you collaborate with Italian talents?

My collaborations with Italians will always remain very significant to me. Collaborations with children are particularly close to my heart, such as the ones I had done with the Polyphonic Choir of Musica e Oltre and the youth orchestra Paolo e Borsellino from Catania.

But indeed I was very excited the first time that I was part of a programme of a very important festival, Horcynus Orca. There were two songs that featured in Silinka, and written by the maestro Dario Siclari for the Reggio Calabria Symphony Orchestra with whom I was on stage for a gig playing my inseparable kora and singing songs songs written by myself, namely Aduna: Anthem for Peace and Yayo: A Lullaby.

This year’s edition of Ghanafest – Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival 2015 will take place over June 12-14 at 19:00 at Argotti Gardens, Floriana Tickets are at €3 per night or €7 for a three-day block ticket available at the door. For more information and a full programme, log on to: