b. 1959, Siguiri, Guinea. Diabaté began singing with local bands in 1972 (he was given the nickname ‘Bambino’ because he was so young). He won the prize for best vocalist at Guinea’s National Arts and Culture Festival in 1979, as a result of which he was invited to become lead singer with the state-sponsored Orchestre Bembeya Jazz National . He stayed with the group until 1990, when he left to pursue a solo career. Soon afterwards, he released his debut cassette and Le Destin, a bestselling follow-up in 1992. Both releases featured Diabaté’s powerful and still youthful-sounding vocals, backed by a chorus of female singers and a band playing predominantly traditional West African instruments. Le Destin was released internationally on CD by the German Popular African Music label with two tracks from Diabaté’s debut African cassette. In 1996, by now a huge star among West Africans both at home and in Europe, Diabaté provided vocals for tracks on Africando’s Gumbo Salsa and in the following year released Kassa under the name Sékouba Bambino. Produced by Ibrahima Sylla, best known for his groundbreaking work on Salif Keita’s Soro, Kassa featured re-recordings of songs from his earlier African releases as well as new material. Diabaté’s regular band was augmented by Paris-based musicians such as Boncana Maiga (the musical director of Africando) and guitarist Yves Ndjock, to create a sound that mixed the traditionally Guinean with the Parisian high-tech African funk associated with Sylla’s recordings. In 1998 Bambino contributed vocals to Africando’s fourth album.
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