Cheick Hamala Diabate (Mali) @ Thunderbird Cafe

With special guests A.T.S. 8 pm doors 21+ event

For more information and tickets ($12 advance, $15 door), please visit:


Washington may be full of lobbyists and consultants, but only one of them rocks the n’goni, the West African plucked lute covered with animal skin. Cheick Hamala Diabate advises presidents and the World Bank and has played for the U.S. Congress. He’s hobnobbed with American string and blues legends—from Bela Fleck to Corey Harris—and along the way reunited his beloved instrument with its long-lost grandchild, America’s banjo. “The music we griots play is not just about making nice sounds for dancing, it’s about giving a lesson to people about their lives,” explains Diabate, whose roots run deep as first cousin to kora master Toumani Diabate, and nephew to legendary Super Rail Band guitarist, Djelimady Tounkara.

Though Diabate may stick to the old-school role of the griot, his music embraces the panoply of sounds he discovered in America, taking him beyond the traditional trio of griot instruments: the n’goni, kora (gourd harp), and balafon (wooden xylophone). He has explored the connection between America’s traditions and his own roots. Like many American string players, including Bela Fleck with whom Diabate has collaborated and performed, Diabate noticed the eerie resemblance of his trusty n’goni and the banjo. In 2007, Diabate’s collaboration with banjo player Bob Carlin, “From Mali to America” (5-String Productions), led to a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album. Yet while many American musicians have traveled to West Africa or picked up the n’goni—thanks in part to Diabate’s introductions and instruction—few African musicians have explored the possibilities of the banjo.

Despite his love of new sounds, Diabate knows that the griot remains the same, regardless of whether he’s singing under the Washington Monument, or in the shadow of a Bamako minaret (both of which are pictured on the Ake Doni Doni album cover). “When someone is lazy, they see the griot and change their ways,” Diabate muses. “Even the president never makes a decision without the griot.”

For more information, check out Cheick Hamala Diabate official website: 


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  • Mark

    Hope everyone is looking forward to Thursday's concert. As a reminder, this concert has been posted as a FYI/Non-hosted event. And there are a couple people that have RSVP'd with another Meetup group

    It should be a great show. I hope this band has a chance to perform again in Pittsburgh so more people can check them out.

    July 16

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