I am a griot, a player for Kings, born of a Kings lineage. This is unusual in my culture. My name, ‘Keita’, defines me but my heritage as a Kora player from a griot family is what has shaped me. Music is part of my DNA. I was born to music, have lived and composed music, it is what I breathe for.
In keeping with my unusual heritage, I learned not just the traditional Kora music of my Griot family but was drawn beyond to the drums, ‘jali dundun’ and more: the Seorouba and Sabar of Senegal and the Malinke Djembe. Initially a cause for concern within my family, my hidden pursuit of the percussive instruments of my culture soon led to my promotion to chief drummer as well as Kora player!
From an illustrious traditional line of Griots an internationally successful musician was born, Solo Cissokho, my uncle. His travels began to include me and so began a life on the road, from Norway to Cuba, to India, and finally to the UK where I made a life with my family.
From my UK home I toured with Baka Beyond and worked across the USA and Europe, called on by SOAS, the Lion King production and more.
Back in the UK I developed my teaching on the festival scene and became connected with a community of musicians I have never forgotten, and still participate in whenever I can. But something was gone from my heart, the Kora. I began my journey back to my life as a griot, but now my experience was shared with a global community of fans and musicians; a new Seckou Keita was born.
In 2000, I had the privilege of playing djembe with the master, Mamady Keita, this and other connections with Sewabeats, Music for Change and Womad Foundation, kept my djembe skills and heart alive, but my Griot heart was calling.
The same year I decided to record my first album, Baiyo (later retittled Mali ). It was the beginning of my journey through experimental tunings, personal composition and experiments with the music I have in my blood that must find new ways to live and breathe through me. Touring and exploring with this album across the globe with Womad, and supporting Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour, I found my path.
Many projects followed: Jalikunda with my family, which was a huge international success, and on to a new project with the SKQ. This formation was the beginning of a new level of international success for me, bringing together musicians and influences from across the globe, truly representing my West African heart and global experiences.
By the end of 2006 the album ‘Tama Silo’ was released and carried us on a wave to ‘The Silimbo Passage’, released in 2008 and reaching no 1 in the iTunes World Music Chart. 400 concerts in 30 countries followed!
In 2011 I joined a new label and began a new musical chapter. Miro was the resulting album, achieving no 1 In the World Music Charts 2012. With a brand new seven-piece band, and special guests, we toured the UK exploring my Manding/Wolof roots through the filter of my global influences. Since then I have found new audiences and success with critics and fans in my collaborations with the wonderful Catrin Finch. Together we are discovering a wealth of connections between our harps from different worlds.