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'Mory Kante lives on': tributes for icon who took African music global


Guinean singer Mory Kante, who helped introduce African music to a world audience in the 1980s, died on Friday in the capital Conakry.

Kante is best known for his dance song “Yeke Yeke,” which was a huge hit in Africa before becoming a No. 1 in several European countries in 1988.

His son says their father is very much alive: Balla Kanté, also a musician told the media: “Mory Kanté is not dead, he’s alive. He has children, we’re here. There will be many surprises, you know, our generation is not the same.

“We’re going to spread African culture all over the world. It’s to tell you that the Mory Kanté‘s fight is still alive, he never left because his works are there and his children are there.”

Nicknamed the “electronic griot” – a play on the name for traditional West African musicians and storytellers – Kante died in hospital at the age of 70 after succumbing to health problems.

Kante spent much of his youth in Mali, which neighbours his native Guinea, where in the early 1970s he joined the renowned Rail Band in which Keita was also singer. Leaving the band in the 1980s

Ismaël Lo, Senegalese artist and composer paid tribute to the deceased: “Mory Kanté was a reference for me, for all African youth, for all culture. He was a great man. Today it is a great baobab that dies, a library that burns, but his works will remain forever among us.”

Leaving the band in the 1980s, Kante revolutionised the West African repertoire by going electric and blending traditional Mandingo music with urban grooves. It was his upbeat single “Yeke Yeke” that catapulted him to fame, and brought Mandingo dance music to nightclubs across Europe.

“Mory Kanté made us proud internationally, he went everywhere. Every time I went to a festival in Europe, Mory Kanté had been there 20 years ago and people would say, “Well, you know Mory Kanté?” I’d say, “But how… Who doesn’t know Mory Kante?”“ Sayon Bamba, Guinean singer added.

Born into a celebrated family of griots, Kante played guitar, the kora harp and balafon, in addition to being a singer.

And along with Mali’s star singer Salif Keita, his songs were among the first from West Africa to achieve widespread success elsewhere of the world.

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