Mory Kanté

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Mory Kanté
Kanté in 2019
Kanté in 2019
Background information
Born(1950-03-29)29 March 1950
Albadaria, French Guinea[1][2]
Died22 May 2020(2020-05-22) (aged 70)
Conakry, Guinea
GenresWorld music
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, kora
Years active1971–2020

Mory Kanté (29 March 1950 – 22 May 2020) was a Guinean vocalist and player of the kora harp. He was best known internationally for his 1987 hit song "Yé ké yé ké", which reached number-one in Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, and Spain. The album it came from, Akwaba Beach, was the best-selling African record of its time.[3]

Early life[edit]

Kanté was born in Albadaria, French Guinea (a part of French West Africa at the time) on 29 March 1950. His father was El Hadj Djeli Fodé Kanté and his mother, Fatouma Kamissoko, was a singer.[4] They were one of Guinea's best known families of griot (hereditary) musicians.[5] He was of mixed Malian and Guinean descent.[4] After being brought up in the Mandinka griot tradition in Guinea, he was sent to Mali at the age of seven years – where he learned to play the kora, as well as important voice traditions, some of which are necessary to become a griot.[2] As a Muslim, he integrated aspects of Islamic music in his work.[3]


In 1971 Kanté became a member of the Rail Band, in which Salif Keita was a singer.[2] Keïta left the band in 1973, leaving Kanté as the singer.[2]

In 1987, he released the song "Yé ké yé ké", which was one of Africa's best-ever selling hits as well as being a European number-one in 1988, making it the first ever African single to sell over one million copies.[6] The album it came from, Akwaba Beach, became the best-selling African record of its time. The album also featured an Islamic song, "Inch Allah", alongside the pop hit "Yé ké yé ké".[3] The album also featured the song "Tama", which inspired two Indian Bollywood songs, "Tamma Tamma" in Thanedaar (1990) and "Jumma Chumma" in Hum (1991), the latter film also featuring another song "Ek Doosre Se" which was inspired by "Inch Allah".[7]

Kanté received unexpected fame again in 1994 when the German techno duo Hardfloor created a dance remix of "Yéké Yéké."[8][9] He also appeared in 2006 as vocalist on British DJ Darren Tate's release, "Narama".[10]

On 16 October 2001, Kanté was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). He participated in that year's World Food Day ceremony at the FAO's headquarters in Rome, alongside fellow singers Majida El Roumi, Gilberto Gil, and Albano Carrisi (who were also nominated as ambassadors).[11]

Kanté was among Africa's top musicians – including Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam and the rapper Didier Awadi – that banded together for the recording of "Africa Stop Ebola", a song offering sound advice aimed at raising awareness in the wake of the Ebola crisis.[12] The song, released in November 2014, transcended public service announcements and sold 250,000 copies with all proceeds going to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).[13]


Kanté died on 22 May 2020 at a hospital in Conakry at the age of 70. He was suffering from chronic illnesses in the last years of his life and often received treatment in France. This ceased to be possible following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in that country.[4][5] He is buried at Conakry Kipe's cemetery.[citation needed]

Selected discography[edit]



  • Courougnegne (1981)
  • N'Diarabi (1982)
  • A Paris (1984)
  • 10 Cola Nuts (1986)
  • Akwaba Beach (1987) (#1 SUI; #13 GER; #43 SWE)
  • Touma (1990)
  • Nongo Village (1993)
  • Tatebola (1996)
  • Tamala – Le Voyageur (2001)
  • Best Of (2002)
  • Sabou (2004)
  • La Guinéenne (2012)

Contributing artist[edit]


  • "Yé ké yé ké" (1988) (#1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Israel; #2 in Germany and Switzerland; #5 in France, #10 in Austria; #12 in Sweden; #29 in the UK)
  • "Tama" (1988) (#44 in Germany)
  • "Yéké Yéké" (remix) (1995) (#97 in Australia,[15] #25 in the UK)
  • "Yéké Yéké" (remix) (1996) (#28 in the UK)


  1. ^ Artists - Mory Kante Archived 13 December 2014 at WOMAD
  2. ^ a b c d Bio - Mory Kante Archived 15 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine RFI Musique
  3. ^ a b c Levtzion, Nehemia; Pouwels, Randall (2000). The History of Islam in Africa. Ohio University Press. p. 551. ISBN 9780821444610.
  4. ^ a b c Snapes, Laura (22 May 2020). "Mory Kanté: Guinean musician dies aged 70 from chronic health problems". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Mory Kanté: African music star dies aged 70". BBC News. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Guinean singer Mory Kante dies at 70". Deutsche Welle. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  7. ^ Srinivasan, Karthik (16 October 2018). "How Guinean Singer Mory Kanté's Music Was Lifted To Create 'Tamma Tamma Loge' and 'Jumma Chumma De De'". Film Companion. Archived from the original on 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  8. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (15 October 2004). "Change the record". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  9. ^ Renaud, Philippe (7 July 2008). "Mory Kanté au FIJM: fin de parcours en Afrique". La Presse. Montreal. Retrieved 23 May 2020. (in French)
  10. ^ Crossan, Rob (2007). "Review of DT8 Project – Perfect World". BBC Music. BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  11. ^ "UN agency to name new ambassadors on World Food Day". UN News. United Nations. 12 October 2001. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  12. ^ Kozinn, Allan (29 October 2014). "How to Protect Yourself From Ebola, in Song". The New York Times ArtsBeat. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  13. ^ Hussain, Misha (24 November 2014). ""Avoid stigmatising Africa," musician says as W.Africa Ebola song launched". Reuters. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 296. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  15. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – Week Ending 11 Jun 1995". (original document published by ARIA). Retrieved 25 April 2017.

External links[edit]