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Malian Traditional with Yacouba

Meet Yacouba!

Yacouba Sissoko was born in Kita, Mali to a well known family of musicians.

Step by Step

Sing “Kelefaba”

  • Listen to “Kelefaba,” Track 11.
  • Learn the words using “Kelefaba” pronunciation, Track 12, and sing along to “Kelefaba” chorus, Track 13, starting with the refrain and adding the rest of the melody if you are ready.
  • Note that the melody changes each time Yacouba repeats it.

Sing “Wawanko”

  • Listen to “Wawanko,” Track 16.
  • Learn the lyrics using “Wawanko” pronunciation, Track 17, and the call and response using “Wawanko” call and response, Track 18.
  • Are you singing with a friend or family member? Have one person sing the call and the other person sing the response.

What is Malian Traditional?

For centuries, jelis—also called griots in French—have been the musical storytellers in West Africa, respected as keepers of history, interpreters of current events, advisers to rulers, and connectors of social groups and families. Yacouba Sissoko was born in Kita, Mali to a well known jeli family; his grandparents, mother, siblings, and many of his cousins are all jelis.

Yacouba started learning the kora and the oral traditions associated with it from his grandfather at the age of nine. When he was 13, he moved to the capital city of Bamako. He eventually went on to attend the National Institute of the Arts. In Bamako, he captured the attention of the music world and began touring with noted international African artists. In 1998, he settled in the US, sharing the music and culture of his ancestors while also learning from the many cultures and styles of music he encountered here, developing his own singular style.

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