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Donné Roberts

Donné Roberts is a guitarist (groove master) and singer who comes to the Aratani stage in Los Angeles via Madagascar (the island nation off southeast Africa), Russia and Canada. He is famous for his indomitable energy and passion on stage. Donné performs mainly in the Malagasy language. He has released two albums “Rhythm Was Born” and “Internation͟.”  He was the first black VJ on MTV Russia and sang back up vocals for the Swedish pop group the “Ace Of Bace” He calls his music- HAPPY MUSIC FROM MADAGASCAR!

Photo by Galina Alexander Photography

Madagascar Slim

My name is Randriamananjara Radofa Besata Jean Longin. I was born in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. When I was nine, my brother received a guitar for passing an exam. The instrument really gave him power over me and the only time he allowed me to play it, was after I ran some errands for him or gave him my dessert. I guess that’s one of the reasons the guitar became very desirable to me. My brothers played in a local band and they were into one of the most popular styles of dance music of Madagascar called “Salegy”. I was not allowed to be in their rehearsal room but whenever my brother practiced I would closely observe his technique and try to emulate his playing on his guitar when he was not home. I became a fairly decent “Salegy” player! One day I heard this incredible music on the radio. It was “Hey Joe” played by Jimi Hendrix and it really changed my life and the kind of music I wanted to play then. I couldn’t speak a word of English and I did not understand what he was talking about, but the feel of the music really touched something in me. Later I heard music y B.B. King, I recognized the same crying solo pattern but in a more direct and simplified form. Those two giants and the local Malagasy music were the biggest influences to my playing.

Alpha Yaya Diallo

Guitarist and singer Alpha Yaya Diallo, from Guinea in West Africa is a self-taught musician, renowned for his dexterous and melodic acoustic and electric guitar-playing. He is a composer, singer and virtuoso on a range of percussion instruments, and on the balafon (traditional wooden xylphone). Growing up in a number of regions of Guinea, Diallo was exposed to a range of music cultures and sounds from the Malenke, Sousou, and his own Foulani people. In neighboring Senegal he was drawn to the popular and powerful mbalax rhythm. His travels also introduced him to the music of Cape Verde and the Caribbean. In Europe he joined Fatala – a group of West African musicians recording for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. He has recorded five albums and is recipient of the Juno Awards, Music Africa Award for National Recording of the Year, and the Pacific Music Industry Award for Best World Music Album. He performs worldwide –sharing the stage with David Lindley, Thomas Mapfumo and reggae stars Jimmy Cliff, Third World and Burning Spear. The film The Best of Both Worlds documents his musical journey.

Kofi Ackah

Master percussionist Kofi Ackah, was born into a musical family in Ema, Ghana. His father -Jewel Ackah, is known as the King of Highlife in Ghana. His father was his mentor. He started his musical career by playing with his father’s band- The Butterfly Six in Ghana. In Canada he performed extensively with The Highlife Stars- with Pat Thomas and Theo Yao Boakye and the Afronubians Band of Tarig Abubakar. His recordings with the Tikisa Band of Adam Solomon earned them double TAMA Awards for best release Safari CD and best band. Kofi is deeply committed and involved in numerous school programs, teaching traditional Ghanian hand drumming, and singing. Kofi Ackah performs with his band Afrafranto playing Highlife music in Canada.  He is the master percussionist and drummer for the African Guitar Summit, and has contributed to their recordings (which won a Juno (Canadian Grammy) for Best World Music Recording).

Naby Camara, Griot from Guinea

From the village of Kanteli in the coastal region of Guinea, West Africa, comes the virtuoso and master balafon player Naby Camara. Naby comes from a lineage of persons known in West Africa as griots (pronounced gree’-oh.) Besides being superlative musicians, griots are oral historians, and the guardians of centuries-old traditions. After studying extensively with his master Amadou Dioubate, he journeyed into the griot lands of West Africa- Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire.

He returned to Guinea with a wide repertoire of griot music and incomparable experience on intricate complexities of the balafon. Here he performed with Les Merveilles de Guinee, Bala etses Baladins, Les Ballets Africains de Guinee, and Mande Yagha. He traveled the world with Les Ballets Africains de Guineee and Fatala and recorded for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. He has collaborated with great griot musicians -Prince Diabate and Ousmane Kouyate (of Salif Keita’s band), and participated in Le Bicentenaire de la Revolution in France. He is a two-time recipient of the Juno Award for best Global Album of the Year.

Excerpts from Janet Planet, Editor of the African Music Encyclopedia (