Singer and n’goni player Pedro Kouyaté is the only Malian to have cut his teeth playing in the Paris metro. It was there he met some French jazz musicians with whom he went on to form the Mandinka Transe Acoustique band. He combines his griot storytelling tradition with his love of jazz. Their third album is out later this autumn.
Now in his early 40s, Kouyaté started out with The Symmetric Orchestra run by one of Mali's great kora players Toumani Diabaté. The orchestra draws mainly on griot musicians from across the old Mandé empire of west Africa.
Then when famed Malian guitarist and singer Boubacar Traoré needed a calebasse player for his tour in Europe, Kouyaté got his big break and the chance to come to Europe for the first tilme.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” he tells RFI with a laugh. “He’s the one who took me on the plane, holding my 20-euro calebasse."
That was then. Kouyaté's recenlty come back from giving his own concerts in Japan where he has a strong following.
And with the crisis in his native Mali, he's using his voice and music to incite more help from the west. There's no storytelling, just suffering.
Kouyaté plays the New Morning in Paris on 21 November 2012.