Cheick Hamala Diabate

CheickHamala2_cropCheick Hamala Diabate is a Grammy-nominated Malian griot and master of the ngoni who has been living and working in the DC area for over two decades. His command of griot tradition and repertoire underpins everything that he does, but Cheick Hamala has also found fruitful connections in the culture and music of his adopted home. He is the world’s foremost explorer of the historical and practical link between his chosen griot instrument (ngoni) and the American banjo, garnering a Grammy nomination for his work with banjo player Bob Carlin on their 2007 release “From Mali to America” (5-String Productions). Cheick has worked with and befriended the likes of Bela Fleck, Corey Harris, Taj Mahal, Forrest Whitaker, Danny Glover and others as he travels Zelig-like around the globe sharing his spirit. Back home in DC, Cheick is a huge presence on the African music scene, playing for ambassadors, senators and rapt audiences across the city. Fresh off a tour of Ethiopia, Cheick came by the studio to chat about his life and music, and treated us to a live in-studio performance of the song “Daman Ndiaye” [@25:50]. You can catch Cheick every Tuesday night at Bossa Bistro (when he’s in town), and check out his NPR Tiny Desk Concert for a glimpse of the full band in action. Enjoy!

[Click play for our full interview with Cheick Hamala – March 15, 2017]


  1. […] and  also plays the 21-key bala and ngoni, which he first learned with his teacher, DC griot Cheick Hamala Diabate.  Uasuf has since learned from various master artists in Senegal and the US, including Medoune […]

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