ALY KEITA is one of the greatest balafon virtuosos in the world. He was born in Abidjan in 1969. His Malinké parents come from a long line of Griots. Already at a young age his father taught him how to master the balafon (a precursor of the xylophone and marimba). He 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 very young man. The existence of this melodic percussive instrument from Western Africa goes back as far as the 14th century. The notes are produced by wood lathes that are struck with sticks, and the sound is amplified by gourds which are aligned beneath the lathes.
The balafon is traditionally the instrument of the griot, or oral historians and songsmiths of West Africa. Although the tradition lives on, it is not as a griot that Aly became famous but for his ability to take this millennium-old instrument into a modern musical context. While rooted in tradition, Keïta’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. He studied the traditional pentatonic balafon under Zouratié Coulibaly in Mali.
From 1986 onwards, he learnt to play jazz with the musician Georges Makinto and built his own diatonic balafon, giving him access to new repertoires. His jazz playing experience gave him the opportunity to produce his own music successfully in Africa, Europe and the USA. Then he adapted the balafon for other musical languages, which led him to take part in international meetings. His instrumental brilliance earned him opportunities to collaborate with jazz and world music legends such as Joe Zawinul, Jan Garbarek, Trilok Gurtu, Omar Sosa, Pharoah Sanders, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Rokia Traoré among others.
During Globaltica festival Aly Keïta will play solo with more traditional repertoire which will perfectly fits to Old Carriage House’ interior and acoustics.
Aly Keïta – balafon, sanza, voice