Their father Sidikiba Diabate (not to be confused with kora player Sidiki Diabate, father of Malian kora player Toumani Diabate) was a renowned musician who pioneered the use of the guitar in Guinea in the 1920s and set the model for them as guitarists. Sidikiba understood how traditional music worked and was entrusted by president Sekou Touré with forming the first national instrumental ensemble of Guinea at the dawn of independence. The Diabate brothers inherited this ancient tradition, normally played on the kora, balafon (xylophone), and koni (lute), but used the guitar as their vehicle of expression and Papa Diabate is largely credited with bringing this tradition into the modern brass orchestras that flourished after independence. The African Virtuoses pulled the electric guitar back into an acoustic context, but with their own unique style that reflected both the acoustic and electric sensibilities.
One can hear strong traces of balafon music as well as the Cuban music that was all the rage. Perhaps due to the French colonial connection, the influence of French gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt seems to loom throughout, especially over soloist Abdoulaye Diabate. Their first full-length album, “La nouvelle mariée” (The Newlywed) featured the vocals of Sekou’s wife, Nadia Hilal, and a series of extraordinary guitar trios. Issued about 1975 on the Syliphone label. The full flowering of the African Virtuoses concept took place in the early 1980s in Abidjan, the capital of neighboring Côte d’Ivoire.
As president Sekou Toure’s regime became increasingly oppressive and Guinea’s economy became more and more dire in the late 1970s, many Guinean musicians moved to Abidjan. It was in Abidjan that the African Virtuoses expanded to its full size with kora (a 21-stringed harp), bass, and percussion. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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