Seckou Keita is one of the leaders of the newest generation of African traditional musicians, fusing the traditional forms and instruments with those of other cultures. As a member of the royal Keita dynasty from Mali, his lofty birth might have prevented him from becoming a jali or griot, a traditional West African praise singer, were it not for the fact that he was raised by his mother's family, the Cissokhos, who were renowned griots from Senegal. Seckou learned the kora in the bosom of his family but he also developed a remarkable flair for drumming and percussion early in life. He started to perform at the age of seven, with his famous uncle Solo Cissokho, and by twelve he had his own band.
In 1996, Seckou left Africa for Scandinavia where he continued to perform at festivals with musicians from the world over. In 1998 he moved to the UK and became a member of Bath based global fusion pioneers Baka Beyond. Seckou recorded his debut album Baiyo, which means Orphan, which was released in the summer of 2000 and went on to impress audiences throughout Europe as a solo artist, earning a nomination from BBC Radio 3 listeners for a World Music Award in 2001 and support slots to luminaries Salif Keita and Youssou N'Dour. Seckou formed the Seckou Keita Quartet in 2004 (expanding later to a quintet) to wide acclaim and continued to tour worldwide, performing more than 400 concerts in 30 countries. Two album from this lineup were released, Afro-Mandinka Soul (Tama-silo) in 2006 & The Slimbo Passage in 2008.
Seckou runs drumming and kora workshops in schools, arts centres and festivals, working with organisations such as Music For Change, Creative Partnerships and WOMAD. He is also a regular guest leader for Sewa Beats a company that offers corporate learning through rhythm and music.
In November 2010, he launched a partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supporting the ICRC's work to protect and assist victims of war and other situations of violence. Seckou chose the ICRC because he had come into contact with the humanitarian organization when he was a child in the Casamance (a region that has been affected by armed violence for the last 30 years).
Seckou joined the Astar family in 2011 and is preparing a new album for release in 2012.
He says: "On this extraordinary journey I have met wonderful people from all walks of life; musicians, promoters and audience members alike and many have become friends. Touring is not a glamorous activity, it is very tiring, but the reward is immense. It’s is all worth it in the end. I feel blessed and I am looking forward to the next part of the journey…"
What the press says about Seckou:
“Keita is the treasure of a Nation” Africa news
“The Hendrix of the Kora” Music news
“..an inspired exponent of the Kora” Guardian
“breathtaking finger-work & musicianship” New Statesman
“a brilliant live performer with stacks of charisma” Lucy Duran – Radio BBC3