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by World Music Network December 05, 2012

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Obituary: Kélétigui Diabaté

This Friday 30 November, Kélétigui Diabaté, one of the greatest figures in Malian contemporary music, passed away in Bamako.

Despite being eighty-one years old, the virtuoso instrumentalist had been performing up until last month.

Famed primarily as a balafón player, Diabaté was also a talented guitarist, violinist, and saxophonist. Not only did he play a key role in Orchestré de la Garde Républicaine, he was also a founding member of L’Orchestre National “A” de la Republique de Mali, which,  led by Diabaté on guitar, was formed as part of a cultural policy formed to promote the appreciation of Malian art.

Diabaté recorded and performed with Les Ambassadeurs, and has collaborated with many great musicians such as Toumani Diabaté, Zap Mama, and Salif Keita.

In 1998 he joined Habib Koité’s band, whom he stayed with until 2009. During this time he played a vital role in many live performances and album recordings.

Diabaté did not release a solo album until 2004, despite having left his distinctive mark on many other works. This album, Santiya,is a perfect example of the exceptional musicianship which has played an essential role in the history of Malian and West-African music: Diabaté will be greatly missed.