Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba formed after Senegalese griot musician Diali Keba Cissokho moved to North Carolina and began to look for musicians who shared his love and passion for creating music based on Manding tradition, flavored with local and personal styles. The outcome of this collaboration is an infectious sound reminiscent of West African dance bands full of unison melody, adventurous improvisation, fiery solos and polyrhythmic frameworks. With lyrics in Manding, Wolof, and English, Kaira Ba illuminates its listeners with stories of ancient and modern West Africa and how they relate to today’s universal experiences and emotions felt by everyone, regardless of origin. Kaira Ba invokes the participation of the audience in the creation of captivating musical moments that often incite spontaneous dancing by the performers and audiences alike, helping to create a peaceful and loving community. This event is co-sponsored by UNC’s Department of Music, the Center for Global Intiatives, and the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies.
Diali Keba Cissokho (vocals and kora) is a renowned kora player and percussionist from the Casamance region of Senegal. Diali moved to the United States after years of performing and teaching in Senegal and in Europe. Born into a rich ancestry of Manding griots (the musician caste), Diali has been playing traditional West African music for as long as he can remember. Diali’s greatest love is the kora, the 21-stringed African “harp-lute” that is at the heart and soul of much West African music, while he is also a passionate singer, percussionist and dancer. Crossing cultural boundaries with a wide range of sounds, he brings a unique personal style to this respected traditional art form. Diali finds joy in playing music from the heart as he shares his own love for life, music, and peace with each audience.
John Westmoreland (guitar) grew up in Pittsboro, NC playing blues and rock in various groups. In his late teens he began playing jazz and eventually studied jazz performance as well as classical composition at Berklee College of Music. In 2007 he attended a master class and performed with legendary jazz guitarist Jim Hall. John also teaches private lessons and regularly performs as a solo jazz guitarist and as an improvisational accompanist to yoga classes. He strongly believes in the healing powers of music.
Jonathan Henderson (bass) is a multi-instrumentalist raised in Durham, NC. He grew up on jazz and blues in a household where instruments and music were a constant. Jonathan received degrees in Sociology and Music at Guilford College and has since studied with great teachers in North Carolina as well as others in travels to the San Francisco Bay Area and Rio de Janeiro. Jonathan believes that music can elucidate the collective power of people struggling for a just world. He tries always to play it in that spirit.
Austin McCall (drum set) grew up in Saxapahaw, NC listening to and playing blues, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, and West African style music. He has studied various styles of drum set and percussion with the influential teachings of Frank Worrell, Mama Kone, and the World. His love for music has brought him to some of the most intense places he’s ever been spiritually and physically.
Will Ridenour (percussion) is a musician from Greensboro, NC specializing in drumming traditions from throughout the world as well as the kora. Will has performed in 40 US states and 25 countries worldwide, and studied for over 12 years with master teachers such as Madou Dembele, Michael Spiro, Dialy Mady Cissoko, Jeli Madya Diebate and Haruna Sidibe in the US, Europe, Mali and Senegal. He firmly believes in the power of music to change the world and aims to do so with each chance.
About the Griot Tradition
In Mande society the griot, or jeli, served as a historian, advisor, praise singer, and storyteller. These musicians served as walking libraries, preserving and sharing the stories and traditions of their culture through song. This inherited tradition, with its deep connections to spiritual, social, and political powers, has been passed down through generations since the 14th century. Diali’s mother, MoussuKeba Diebate, and his father, Ibrahima Cissokho, both hailed from long and celebrated lines of griots. Historically, each village had their own griot who told tales of births, deaths, marriages, battles, hunts, affairs, and other important events and celebrations.