Kouyate belongs to a superior and rare Mandingue griot family,
the Konkoba of West Africa. N'Faly's father, Konkoba Kabinet
Kouyate, went through many stages of tests to gain knowledge
of the Mandingue world. By explaining the Mandingue music and
stories in his performances, N'Faly has taken on the mission
of continuing the legacy of his father, explaining the Mandingue
culture to his audiences. Thus both Mandingue music and history
are vitally important to N'Faly. He was born in Siguiri and
grew up in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. He studied mathematics
in which he excelled at a high level, but soon put that aside
to devote his whole life to music (the name Kouyate means musician!).
While growing up N'Faly enjoyed the music of Harry Belafonte
(who his father liked to listen to), and also Aretha Franklin's
early gospel songs.
Between 1983 and 1996 N'Faly performed with several important
troupes, including the University Troupe of Conakry.
In 1994 N'Faly moved to Belgium and worked with Jeunesses Musicale
to educate children about the Mandingue culture. At this time
he formed his ensemble Dunyakan (The Voice of the World) which
fuses storytelling, jazz, dance and traditional West African
music. True to the band's name and what it represents, the members
come from different countries of the world. They made their
first recording, simply entitled Dunyakan, in 1997.
Generally N'Faly leads the band on kora and balafon and vocals
while the other 6 musicians, one of whom is N'Faly's wife, Muriel,
play djembes, percussion, guitars and double-bass. The newest
member of the band, Mady, who plays guitar, is N'Faly's nephew.
Dunyakan's performances are highly enjoyable with irresistable
and inspiring polyphonies. Their first CD, N'Na Kandje,
was released in 2001. In 2004 they were on a North American
tour and on stage at WOMAD Reading. Dunyakan's memorable appearances
in 2006 were at the Bucharest Francophone summit, at the Yehudi
Menuhin Foundation in Brussels and they performed for Princess
Astrid of Belgium at the Centre Tropique d'Anvers. Catch latest
news, photos and detailed biographies of Dunyakan members at
web site: Dunyakan
Mandingue history as well as kora, balafon, African polyphonies,
dance, doundoun and djembe at his school, Cadence
and his wife Muriel Finet Kouyate work
in their non-profit organisation Namunkanda
the Culture), aiming
to achieve understanding and tolerance among all world cultures.
UNESCO asked them to
part in a project which helps educate about the arts internationally.
Back in 1997 N'Faly was invited to join the fusion band Afro
Celt Sound System that blends African and Irish sounds, now
known as Afro Celts. With them N'Faly has performed at numerous
international festivals such as Glastonbury, WOMAD, Montreaux
and Montreal: no doubt there are many more in the pipeline!
Afro Celts have toured all over the world and have recorded
many albums on which N'Faly features, some of which have been
nominated for international awards. In 2002 the band received
the Listeners' Choice Award at the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.
Collaborating with other musicians
is one of N'Faly's great strengths. For example in 2003 he took
part in a project called 'Anyeben kafo' which brought together
28 Mandigue musicians to meet with European musicians. N'Faly
was part of 'Coast to Coast' in which 11 Belgians from various
backgrounds staged small concerts throughout Belgium. N'Faly
joined a group of Belgian-based musicians on stage in Athens
at the Olympic Games ceremony in June 2004. In 2005-6 he performed
several times with Urban Trad, including at an anti-racism event
in Brussels and features on Urban Trad's single 'Diama Den'.
N'Faly and percussionist Renzo Spiteri from Malta performance
together for the President of Malta and also at the Sori-WOMAD
festival in South Korea in 2006.
N'Faly and Dunyakan have marked 2008 with the release of their
second album, Tunya and promotional tours. Tunya
(translated as 'truth') demonstrates N'Faly as a mediator who
can creatively bring together string arrangements, choirs and
In his very busy schedule N'Faly tries to keep in close contact
his family by visiting them in Guinea. Whether you encounter
him on CD or live on stage, with Dunyakan or Afro Celts, N'Faly
Kouyate and his beautiful kora music will be truly unforgettable!