Aly Keïta, the Ivory Coast balafon player was born in 1969 in Abidjan. From an early age, he was initiated in the playing of this musical ancestor of the xylophone and the marimba, by his father, himself a balafon player.
In other words, in the Keïta family the balafon is a serious matter.
Aly’s balafon is first and foremost a work of art. In some ways, Aly is the “king” of musical tuning: he has customized his string and wood instrument by adding different sized calabash resonators, making it sound like no other balafon on earth.
In his compositions, Aly speaks about everyday life, orphans and mothers, and men’s shame… The musical translation is that of a virtuoso of mallets. Aly becomes part of his instrument, caressing it with tenderness, striking it with force and at great speed. He is a magician, a sorcerer who expresses the joy of life through his art.
Aly Keita makes his own balafons and plays them continually in order to excelalongside the very best. Now living in Germany, he has participated in a number of projects together with Omar Sosa, Rhoda Scott, H.Lüdemann, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Paco Séry, Karim Ziad, Trilok Gurtu & Jan Garbaret, Chander Sardjoe, L.Soubramania, Arto Tuncboyacyan, Etienne M’bappé, Linley Marthe, Mathew Garrison, Paulo Frésu, Joe Zawinul….With his impressive virtuosity, Aly develops spectacular and enchanting African polyphonies on his instrument with one thousand and one waves of his (two) magic hands !
Meeting Aly Keita is a great opportunity to discover what being “passionate about music” really means. When Aly speaks or plays music, he shares his enthusiasm with those around him, with a glimmer of a dream in his eyes. Always smiling, he communicates his joie de vivre and energy to each and every person.
This Ivorian has many reasons to smile: the latest is his first completely solo album Akwaba Iniséné, released just a few weeks ago and already in the Top 20 of the European World Music Charts.
This album pays tribute both to the country he grew up in, the Ivory Coast, and his country of origin, Mali. “Akwaba Inisene” means the same thing in Baule and Malinke: Welcome to Africa. Descended from a family of musicians, Aly Keita grew up surrounded by traditional instruments like the djembe and the kora. But his favourite instrument became the balafon, which he made with his own hands as a young man, and which he has played ever since, to shine alongside the very best: Omar Sosa, Rhoda Scott, Etienne M’Bappé, Linley Marthe, Paolo Fresu, Paco Séry, Trilok Gurtu, Hans Lüdemann, and Joe Zawinul…
All these encounters have greatly influenced the writing of this album, without Aly ever forgetting his roots: the album also includes the first song his father taught him to play on the balafon. “Today, I write freely according to my lived and shared emotions, according to my spiritual inspiration, according to my feelings of love, joy, pleasure and energy,” explains Aly, who with this album has successfully achieved with the finesse that typifies him, the perfect balance between tradition and modernity.
The album “Amen” by Salif Keita was the very first Aly bought, so it’s not surprising that the king of balafon would like to start a project with this artist. And Aly Keita has many dreams. Among them is the desire to raise awareness of the balafon around the world. To realize this dream, he worked with the German percussionist, composer and, of course, fellow balafon player, Gert Kilian, in whom he found an ideal partner. Together, they set up the project “Aly Keita & the Magic Balafon”, which took them to the land of Aly’s father, from Konsankuy to Mali, for the realisation of a DVD released in June that narrates and explains the balafon. Just as this project is complete, Aly has plunged into another: to conquer the Spanish public with the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Gabarek.
“I want my music to be alive and energetic, full of hope and love, music that I can share with the public and through which the public and I can share our joy.”
Indefatigable, Aly Keita continues his journey towards perfection and originality, to the delight of this audience that he respects so much.
Hamide Drake by the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers Peter Brotzmann, Fred Anderson, and Ken Vandermark, among others. Drake was born in Monroe, LA, in 1955, and later moved to Chicago with his family. He ended up taking drum lessons with Fred Anderson’s son, eventually taking over the son’s role as percussionist in Anderson’s group. As a result, Fred Anderson also introduced Drake to George Lewis and other AACM members. Drake also has performed a wide range of world music; by the late ’70s, he was a member of Foday Muso Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society and he has played reggae music extensively. Drake has been a member of the Latin jazz band Night on Earth, the Georg Graewe Quartet, the DKV Trio, Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Octet/Tentet, and Liof Munimula, the oldest free improvising ensemble in Chicago. Drake has also worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Mahmoud Gania, bassist William Parker (in a large number of lineups), and has performed a solstice celebration with fellow Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang semiannually since 1991. Hamid Drake recorded material is best represented on Chicago’s Okkadisk label.
Aly Keita: balafon
Hamid Drake: drums