Kimi Djabaté

Kimi Djabaté

Kimi Djabaté was born on January 25, 1975 in Tabato, Guinea Bissau. He is a Bissau – Guinean Afro – Beat/blues musician. Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Kimi continues to be one of the contemporary links in a chain of West African music that extends back in time hundreds of years.

Djabaté was born into a poor but musically accomplished family in an area recognized as a center for music, dance, and other creative arts. His interest in music started at the age of three when he started playing the balafon, the Africa xylophone, quickly learning other traditional instruments. In his pre-teens he left home to the neighboring village of Sonako to study the Kora.

This helped him in the future by subsequently developing his guitar playing ability. His talent as a musician became much more than a childhood hobby for Djabaté as he was required to play at local ceremonies to help contribute to the family income. This became a source of conflict for Djabaté and his family. His parents and uncle forced him to perform against his will which took away from much of the free time other youth his age was enjoying.

Djabaté’s parents as well as his uncle, through pressuring him to perform, provided the young phenom with excellent training in traditional Mandingo music. However, Djabaté was also interested in popular African genres such as the local dance music style gumbé, Nigerian Afrobeat, Cape Verdean morna, not to mention western jazz and blues, all of which have influenced his music.

Musical career

After touring Europe with the national music and dance ensemble of Guinea-Bissau, Djabaté settled in Lisbon, Portugal. He has lived in Europe since, yet remains devoted to the music he grew up with in Guinea-Bissau. In Europe Djabaté collaborated with various artists, including Mory Kanté and Waldemar Bastos.

In 2005, Djabaté released his first solo album, Teriké, which he released independently. Djabaté second solo album, Karam, was released on July 28, 2009 under the label, Cumbancha. This one disc, fifteen song album has themes of social and political realities; the suffering of African people; the fight against poverty; freedom; women’s rights; and love.