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Aly Keita

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West African musician Aly Keita earned worldwide renown for his mastery of the balafon, a marimba-like instrument native to the region. The balafon is traditionally the instrument of the griot, or the oral historians and songsmiths of West Africa. Although the tradition lives on, it is not as a griot that Keita became famous. Rather, it was his ability to take this millennium-old instrument into a modern musical context. While rooted in tradition, Keita's Afro-pop, funk-fueled rhythm section and taste for complex jazz-oriented arrangements set him far apart from most balafonists. Aly hails from a famous musical family, the same that produced Salif Keita, one of West Africa's most treasured songwriters and musical talents. Having been brought up in this hot-house environment, Aly relocated as an adult to Germany. His instrumental brilliance earned him opportunities to collaborate with jazz and world music legends such as Trilok Gurtu and Joe Zawinul, among others. Keita made his debut as a bandleader in 2008. The record, entitled Akwaba Inisene, turned heads across Europe. It debuted in the Top 20 on World Music Charts Europe. In the months following the record's release, Keita toured extensively throughout Europe and Africa alike. Keita and his ensemble, the Balankan, graced stages from Maputo to Barcelona to Amsterdam supporting the master musician's new endeavor. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez

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