Diabaté began playing the kora, a 21-string harp unique to West Africa, when he was 5 and debuted solo when he was 13 in Mali’s 1978 biannual music showcase, the proving ground for young traditional players. He is considered a virtuoso and a guardian of a classical tradition dating back 700 years. More than any other kora player, Diabaté is responsible for bringing this instrument to audiences around the world.
He is known both for his peerless rendering of traditional material and for his genre-bending collaborations. He won a Grammy for his collaboration with the late guitar genius Ali Farka Toure.
Diabaté’s newest album, his first solo album in 20 years, will be released Feb. 25. The Mandé Variations is being promoted as “the definitive statement on where the kora is today” and “as one of the most beautiful and melodically accessible albums.”
Diabaté recorded his first solo album, Kaira, in a London studio in 1986 in one afternoon without retakes. It remains a bestseller and one of the finest albums of kora music to date.
Other albums followed, including Songhai, a collaboration with Spain’s flamenco-fusion band Ketama, which blends serene Mali oral traditions with the heat of flamenco.
His collaboration with the 52-piece Japanese/Malian Symmetric Orchestra, Shake the World, in 1992 confirmed his reputation as a maverick.
He is touring with the Symmetric Orchestra, a big Malian dance band, and has collaborated with them in an earlier album Boulevard de l’Indépendance. The 10-member band will sing and play traditional and modern instruments on the URI stage.
Pangaea is sponsored by the URI Department of Housing and Residential Education. This year marks Pangaea’s 10th university and this performance marks its 50th act. The series has evolved from offering music festivals with local talent to sponsoring one performance by a performer known worldwide. For more information about the event call, 401-874-5162.