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Malian musician
Balla Kouyaté with balafon. Photography by Alison Williams., Malian musician, 2007; Balla Kouyaté (b. 1973); Medford, Massachusetts;
Balla Kouyaté with balafon. Photography by Alison Williams., Malian musician, 2007
Balla Kouyaté (b. 1973)
Medford, Massachusetts
Underbelly of balafon showing gourds.; Malian musician; 2001: Allston, Massachusetts
Balla Tounkara and Balla Kouyaté soon after coming to the United States; Malian musician; 2001: Allston, Massachusetts
Balla Kouyaté performing. Photography by Alison Williams; Malian musician; 207:
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Balla Kouyaté
Medford, MA
Web Site
To say that Balla Kouyaté was born into a musical family is an understatement. His family lineage goes back over 800 years to Balla Faséké, the first of an unbroken line of Djelis, or griots, in the Kouyaté clan. This family is regarded as the original praise-singers of the Malinké people, one of the ethnic groups found across much of West Africa. Djelis are the oral historians, musicians and performers who keep alive and celebrate the history of the Mandé people of Mali, Guinea and other West African countries.

Balla Kouyaté is a griot and virtuoso player of the balafon, the ancient West African ancestor of the xylophone. Played with mallets, the balaphon is made up of wood slats of varying lengths. Underneath, two rows of calabash gourds serve as natural amplifiers.

"In my culture, music is used primarily to encourage people." True to his word, Kouyaté is ever present performing at weddings, baptisms, and other domestic ceremonies within the West African immigrant communities of Boston, New York City, and beyond. Doing so, Balla connects these immigrants with the deep history of the Malinké people. But he is equally motivated to share his music with the larger world, driving the tradition forward. His group, World Vision, performs fusion mirroring the Afro pop music of present-day Mali and Guinea. He released Sababu: Balla Kouyaté & World Vision in 2007. And he regularly plays with world renowned West African musicians who are touring in the States. He often accompanies kora master Mamadou Diabate, and in 2004 joined NEA National Heritage Fellow Sidiki Cond Kouyaté for a month long residency at Carnegie Hall. In 2010, Balla Kouyaté was awarded a Mass Cultural Council Fellowship in the Traditional Arts.
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