Senegalese musician Diabel Cissokho is part of the great line of Cissokho griots. Growing up in Dakar and Tambacounda, surrounded by a rich musical heritage and a family of musicians, Diabel began playing a number of traditional instruments. However, Diabel’s affinity with the kora was clear from an early age.
Diabel’s musical pedigree is exceptional. International tours with his family’s band Bannaya led toa long stint as Baaba Maal’s kora player, as well as with acclaimed musicians such as Kandia Kouyate, Pee Wee Ellis, Omar Pene, Cheikh Lo, Ernest Ranglin and Youssou N’Dour. Now well established in the UK, Diabel’s virtuosic talent, his “resonant voice and rocking kora style” (Songlines), have been welcomed everywhere from WOMAD and Glastonbury to London’s Barbican, where he performed alongside Femi Kuti, Cheikh Lo and Manu Dibango, and more recently in the Queen Elizabeth Hall London with his band.
Diabel’s success with bluesman Ramon Goose cemented his reputation as a versatile musician, able to effortlessly cross cultures. Their album Mansana Blues was lauded as “a flavoursome mix of slide guitar, mellow kora and undulating Mandinka rhythms” (fRoots) which “delivers moments of steamy pleasure” (Songlines).
A 2010 European tour culminated in the DNA Culture Project with Ramon, Robert Plant guitarist Justin Adams, Gambian riti player Juldeh Camara and bassist Julian Joseph at Dakar’s renowned venue Just4You.
Diabel’s 2012 album ‘Kanabory Siyama’ marked a return to his roots. Recorded in the UK and Dakar and featuring members of his own family, the album drew on Diabel’s rich musical heritage, blending beautiful Mandinkan melodies with an upbeat West African groove. His album received a four star review in Songlines magazine where he was also a featured artist on their Top of the World CD, as well as receiving nominations for Best Artist and Best Newcomer.
Alongside the album’s release, Diabel completed an extensive uk tour at festivals and venues across the UK including the Back2Black festival at the Barbican and a spot at the UK's leading world music festival WOMAD, where he performed and was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and was interviewed by Lucy Duran. As a regular performer with Africa Express, Diabel was part of the Africa Express train performing with some of Africa and the world’s most renowned musicians including Paul McCartney, Amadou and Mariam, Damon Albarn, Romeo Stodart, Matthieu Chedid, and more. Diabel also performed on 'Later...with Jools Holland' performing alongside Sinead O'Connor, again showing his versatility as an artist.
In 2014 Diabel had the premiere of his documentary, filmed by Estrella Sendra, about the history of the griots and how Diabel draws on his heritage as a griot and uses it in his life as a musician today. This film received great feedback in the UK and Europe and continues to be screened internationally. Following a successful 2015 international tour Diabel has been busy recording his upcoming release ‘Tambacounda Express, an album that draws on the eclectic mix of cultures that pass through the region where Diabel was born, Tambacounda in Senegal. With influences from Senegal, Mali, to Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, and Morocco, the result is a rhythmically, lyrically and melodically diverse collection of songs with strong roots in the blues, alongside the traditional Mandinkan melodies of his griot ancestry.
'The Cissokho family have the benefit of a deep culture that goes back to the Middle ages where music occupies a central, life affirming position in society, along with a 21st century youthful dynamism that defies the world to ignore them. Groove, melody and soul, and those voices hitting you like an Atlantic wave, it's irresistible.' Justin Adams, 2012