Kouyate was born into a musical family and picked up guitar and balafon as a child, forming a youth band in 1966. He studied agriculture for a few years, but left school to pursue music. He moved to Bamako and met Kante Manfila, who was then leader of Les Ambassadeurs, and Kouyate joined them in 1977. He became friends with fellow Ambassadeur Salif Keita, and after Keita left the band, Kouyate played guitar on two Keita albums. Kouyate also began a solo career, releasing several albums. He signed a deal with a London company in 1990, releasing an album which blended traditional sounds with mellow jazz.
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