AMP homeEventsSpecial featuresRecommended cdsRecommended readingVarious photosContact AMPRelevant links
Habib Koite

Habib is a jeli, from the north-west of Mali. Jelis usually concentrate on praise songs but Habib opted not to pursue that route with his music. Habib's parents were both musicians and he learnt to sing and play the guitar just by observing and listening to them. His next step was to join the National Institute of Arts (INA) in Bamako where he soon became conductor of the band. During his time at the INA he performed with a number of well known Malian musicians including Kélétigui Diabaté who is now a member of Habib's own band, Bamada which he formed in 1988. Incidentally, Bamada is a nickname for people who live in Bamako.
After the release of the song 'Nanalé', Habib received the prestigious Radio France International (RFI) Discoveries prize. This award made it possible for the group to go on their first tour outside of Africa, which they did in 1994. Habib's albums include Muso Ko (1994), Baro (2001) and Afriki (2007). The theme of Afriki is the strengths and challenges of Africa, a subject about which Habib gives a lot of thought.
Instruments that members of Bamada play include harmonica, balafon and violin. Hand clapping is also a very distinctive sound on many of the songs. Habib's lyrics are mostly about social and development issues and when these are printed on the CD liner notes they are definitely well worth reading because of their deep insights. One of Habib's best known songs is 'Cigarette Abana' (No More Cigarettes), first recorded in 1991 on the CD Muso Ko, with a new Latin-style version on Baro.
Malian musicians often concentrate on music just from their own areas but Habib's music covers the whole of Mali. After playing a variety of African and Western rhythms he made a conscious
decision to focus on the very wide
variety of Malian rhythms. He sets out

his vision and feelings on this in the notes that accompany his CD Ma Ya (1998). He takes the traditional instruments and adapts their sounds to the acoustic guitar. Habib's main instrument is the acoustic guitar and he also sings.
Habib and Bamada were on stage at the African Roots and Shoots Festival at London's Barbican in 2000 (see photo) and have also performed at many other international festivals. Later in 2000, Habib was part of the "Voices of Mali" tour in USA and Canada. Read about Habib and Bamada's concert in February 2005: Review
Habib is one of Mali's most successful musicians internationally - he's very popular with international musicians with whom he has performed and recorded like Eric Bibb and Bonnie Raitt. On Afriki, the horns on the anthemic track 'Africa' are arranged by Pee Wee Ellis.
Habib's music crosses all kinds of barriers and he implores young people in Mali not to lose hope - after all creation and imagination don't need money, (Africa is)... "the richest continent from nearly every perspective". Make no mistake - Habib's music is a shining example of that great wealth.