Mory Kanté was a Guinean singer and kora player who brought the music of West Africa to the world with his 1987 hit, “Ye Ke Ye Ke.”
- Died: May 22, 2020 (Who else died on May 22?)
- Details of death: Died in Conakry, Guinea at the age of 70.
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Popularizing the rhythms of his culture
Kanté grew up surrounded by music, as the son of two griots – a West African term for a musical storyteller whose craft is passed down through generations. He learned to play the kora, a string instrument made from a large calabash gourd, and he began playing in bands when he was young. Kanté began a solo career in 1979, adding electronic elements to traditional West African music and electrifying his kora. His catchy music found a place in 1980s dance clubs, and “Ye Ke Ye Ke” soared to the tops of international charts in 1987. The track – an updated version of a traditional Manding harvesting song – made its way to U.S. dance clubs and became the first African single to sell more than a million copies. Kanté continued recording all his life, including participating in the 2014 “Africa Stop Ebola” charity single.
Kanté on how he wanted to be remembered
“As a man of culture, as a citizen of the world who delivers his messages in music, and as a tireless traveller looking to meet and know the people of this world.” —from a 2004 interview with the Guardian
What people said about him
Full obituary: The New York Times