GRAMMY-Nominated Master Ngoni & Banjo Musician + Griot Cheick Hamala Diabate in Concert
Sunday, December 4 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm$10.00
Sponsored by National Capital Bank
Cheick (pronounced “shake”) Hamala Diabate is a West African historian in the Griot tradition, and a world-recognized master of the ngoni: a Malian traditional instrument. A sought after performer, lecturer, storyteller, and choreographer throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and Canada, Cheick Hamala Diabate began touring in the U.S.in 1995. He has performed at venues such as The Smithsonian Institute, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest, and many of the top festivals across the US.
For in-person attendance, we require all attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A steward of the 800 year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa, Cheick Hamala Diabate shares the oral history, music, and song of his culture as it was passed on to him from birth by parent to child. At an early age, Cheick Hamala Diabate easily mastered the ngoni, a stringed lute and ancestor to the banjo. The ngoni is known to have existed since at least 1352. It evolved into the banjo in North America after enslaved West Africans were forcibly brought here. Upon coming to the US, Cheick was intrigued by the resemblance between his beloved ngoni and the American banjo, even sharing tunings and picking styles. He has since learned to play the banjo at a virtuosic level, including collaborations with Bela Fleck and Bob Carlin. Cheick’s album of banjo duets with Carlin, From Mali to America, was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2007 for Best Traditional World Music Album.
Stephen Winick, folklorist and scholar at the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, will be on hand to provide historical context. Winick serves as co-covener of the Music and Song section of the American Folklore Society and is a contributing editor to the Grove Dictionary of American Music.
At age 12, Cheick Hamala Diabate was invited to the National Institute of Arts in Bamako — Mali’s Capital — where he studied music, graphic arts, cinema, literature, and theatre. He began his international performing career upon graduation, learning from and playing with the full pantheon of Malian musical greats, including Toumani Diabate (a first cousin), Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, and more.
Cheick performs solo and with his ensemble playing traditional Manding Griot instruments. With the release of his most recent album, Ake Doni Doni – Take it Slow, Cheick Hamala Diabate has successfully fused the traditional rhythms and vocals of his ancestors with the more electric, American sounds he has absorbed over the past decade living in the US, including guest appearances by celebrated bluesman and good friend Corey Harris.
Whether playing solo, in a traditional trio, or rocking with his full 10-piece orchestra, Cheick Hamala Diabate always reflects the historical integrity of an important art form with a rich tradition stretching back hundreds of years to the formation of the Great Malian Empire.
This concert concludes this year’s Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration.
Now in its 7th year, Hill Center’s Benjamin Drummond series honors America’s first liberated enslaved people with scholarly and celebratory programs that bring together a diverse group of prominent experts, artists, and public figures throughout the year to explore the Civil War and its aftermath from the African American perspective. Named for the Old Naval Hospital’s first patient, a young African American seaman taken prisoner by Confederated ships, Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration marks 160 years since President Abraham Lincoln signed The District of Columbia Emancipation Act, which freed DC’s over 3000 enslaved people nearly nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Benjamin Drummond Emancipation Day Celebration series is made possible by National Capital Bank, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Capitol Hill Community Foundation.