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N'Faly Kouyate

N'Faly 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
their web site: Dunyakan
N'Faly teaches Mandingue history as well as kora, balafon, African polyphonies, dance, doundoun and djembe at his school, Cadence Mandingue. He and his wife Muriel Finet Kouyate work in their non-profit organisation Namunkanda (The Defense of the Culture), aiming to achieve understanding and tolerance among all world cultures. UNESCO asked them to

take 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 electronic sounds.
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!