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Ballake Sissoko

Ballake Sissoko is a Malian kora player and composer who has developed the art of the kora in ways that are creative and innovative while also firmly rooted in tradition.

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Quick Facts

  • Country of origin:
    Mali
    Domain of expertise:
    Distinguished and Enduring Contributions to Music
    AKMA Cycle Year:
    Status:
    Laureate

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About the Artist

Ballake Sissoko is a Malian kora player and composer who is considered to be one of the most important musicians of his generation. The son of the renowned jeli (griot) Djelimady Sissoko, he began learning the kora  at an early age  at his father’s school, and inherited his late father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali at age 14. He further developed his skills playing with virtuoso guitarists such as Bouba Sacko. Eventually he became the first local kora player to master musical styles typical of the Western guitar while still being able to maintain the traditional West African rhythmic structures required for dancing. After a period of performing as a member of large ensembles and as an accompanist for Malian singers, he came to international attention through solo concerts and duet performances with well known musicians such as the American bluesman Taj Mahal and fellow Malian kora master Toumani Diabate.

Sissoko’s first album Ballake: Kora music from Mali, featuring himself, his wife, and a multitude of young West African virtuoso musicians, combines traditional music and modern sounds. Sissoko is the founder of the trio Mande Tabolo and a member of the trio 3MA, with which he released the album Anarouz, the leading album on World Music Charts Europe in 2018.

He has toured in the United States, Europe, and Australia with the renowned Malian singer Kandia Kouyaté, and has also collaborated extensively with the French cellist Vincent Segal. Their album “Chamber Music” won the Victoires du Jazz for International Album of the Year in 2010, and Segal produced and played in Sissoko’s 2013 album “At Peace.” Sissoko was nominated for the Victoires de la Musique, an award given by the French Ministry of Culture, in the world music al- bum of the year category for his album “Musique de Nuit” in 2016.

Ballake Sissoko

Ballake Sissoko is a Malian kora player and composer who has developed the art of the kora in ways that are creative and innovative while also firmly rooted in tradition.