Acclaimed African guitarist set for a Brighton show

Habib Koité
Habib Koité

One of Africa’s most respected guitarists Habib Koité is set to tour the UK for the first time in a decade, including a performance at Brighton’s Komedia on October 18.

Seven autumn dates, showcasing the best of his wide-ranging back catalogue, will see Habib joined on stage by his longtime band Bamada, some of whom have played with him for almost 30 years. This is a rare opportunity to catch one of Mali’s leading musicians live.

Habib is descended from a line of Khassonké griots, traditional troubadors who provide wit, wisdom and musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events. Coming from a family of seventeen brothers and sisters, Habib would accompany his griot mother, and inherited a passion for music from his paternal grandfather who played the kamele n’goni, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated with hunters from the Wassolou region of Mali.

Habib made music from a young age, honing his craft on the streets, but was headed towards a career in engineering before an uncle who recognised his talent, enrolled him at the National Institute of Arts (INA) in Bamako. Habib graduated top of his class in 1982.

Through studying classical guitar, Habib developed his signature fingerpicking style, which combined with tuning his guitar to the pentatonic scale and playing on open strings produces a sound reminiscent of the kora.

This singular approach has cemented his position as one of Mali’s most successful musicians, and he has collaborated with everyone from Malian legend Toumani Diabaté to blues greats Eric Bibb (with whom he recorded the 2012 album Brothers in Bamako) and Bonnie Raitt, with Songlines describing him as ‘oneof Africa’s most accomplished instrumentalists.’

Habib’s music is rooted in Malian and West African rhythms and melodies, while embracing a variety of musical styles including blues, flamenco and Afro-Cuban. Habib’s cadenced vocals come in eight languages from Bambara and Mandinka, to French and Spanish.

Habib believes in the power of music to build bridges, and his songs speak of peace, unity and togetherness, universal messages that have never been more timely.