World-renowned Guinean singer Mory Kante helped introduce African music to a world audience in the 1980s is dead. He was 70.
Born into a celebrated family of griots, Kante played guitar, the kora harp and balafon, in addition to being a singer.
And along with Mali’s star singer Salif Keita, his songs were among the first from West Africa to achieve widespread success elsewhere in the world.
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His son Balla Kante told AFP his father passed away on Friday in the capital Conakry.
“He suffered from chronic illnesses and often travelled to France for treatment, but that was no longer possible with the coronavirus,” Balla Kante said.
“We saw his condition deteriorate rapidly, but I was still surprised because he’d been through much worse times before,” he added.
“Kante is best known for his dance song ‘Yeke Yeke,’ which was a huge hit in Africa before becoming a No. 1 in several European countries in 1988. It was also the first African single to sell over a million copies in the continent.
“Nicknamed the ‘electronic griot’ – a play on the name for traditional West African musicians and storytellers – Kante died in hospital after succumbing to untreated health problems.
“Kante spent much of his youth in Mali, which neighbours his native Guinea, where in the early 1970s he joined the renowned Rail Band in which Keita was also singer.
“Leaving the band in the 1980s, Kante revolutionised the West African repertoire by going electric and blending traditional Mandingo music with urban grooves,” AFP said.