Seckou Keita

Senegal / UK

Since arriving in the UK in 1999, Keita has been on an epic creative journey that has seen him broaden the idiomatic scope of his instrument as well as spread his wings, literally and figuratively.

Keita has constantly enchanted and surprised audiences, gathered critical acclaim and received numerous prizes including the prestigious “Musician of the year” at the 2019 BBC Folk Music Awards “I don’t know if I’m a folk musician, a jazz or a world one,” he said at the time. “Forget about categories. My music is just music for the soul.”

Keita’s virtuosity, unique style and the ingenuity of his tunings quickly made him one of the world's “finest exponents of the Kora”. He has toured all over the globe as a solo artist and with his ground-breaking quintet with appearances at WOMAD, Hay, Glastonbury, Tokyo Jazz, Chicago World Music Festival, Sydney International and Montreal Jazz Festivals amongst others.

His first album, Baiyo (later called Mali -2000) utilised different tunings to extend the range of material he could perform on his instrument. This was followed by a family album (Lindiane- 2003) and then the creation of his band, which led to the release of Tama Silo: Afro Mandinka Soul (2006) and The Silimbo Passage (2008).

Seckou’s following albums, Miro (2012) and the stunning 22 Strings (2015) have received critical acclaim. However his desire to push the boundaries of his art has led to inspired collaborations with numerous pop, jazz, folk and classical artists, notably Omar Sosa (Transparent Water - 2017, Suba - 2021) ,AKA trio with Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale (Joy, 2019), Catrin Finch (Clychau Dibon - 2013, Soar - 2018, Echo - 2022), Paul Weller (Rockets Remix 2020), Sharon Shannon and Damon Albarn. The Lost Words, Spell Songs (2019) and Spell Songs II: Let the Light In (2021) has been a delightful collaboration with folk musicians joined by the words of Robert McFarlane and artwork of Jackie Morris.

Since 2007 Seckou has also had several opportunities to work with classical ensembles. 

His new work for kora and orchestra, African Rhapsodies is the natural continuation of his mission to showcase the beauty of his instrument, reach new audiences and more generally to democratise music.

Collaboration is still driving his work with the release of Pan-African singles with Aida Samb (Elles Sont Toutes Belles) and Baaba Maal (Homeland).The motto for his quest remains ‘have kora, will travel’.