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Amadou Kouyate brings African rhythms to Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

Amadou Kouyate brings African rhythms to Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts will bring a taste of the West African form of Manding Diali to the area this weekend with guest Amadou Kouyate.

Kouyate is the 150th generation of the Kouyate family of Manding Diali (oral historians/musicians of West Africa) and the first generation born of his father’s lineage in America.

“As a cultural and community institution, we have a responsibility to represent a wide variety of artistic practices and forms of creative expression. Amadou Kouyate presents a unique musical art form that many people in the area might not have experienced before and we are excited to bring that opportunity to our region,” said Jillian MacMaster, education and marketing associate at the museum.

He will perform a musical montage on the 21-string Kora and rhythmic presentations on Djembe and Koutiro drums at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the museum.

This is his first appearance at the museum.

“We discovered his music through the Maryland State Arts Council touring artist roster,” MacMaster said.

She said the concert fits nicely with the museum’s current exhibition.

“Some of the works on view in one of our current exhibitions, The Blues and the Abstract Truth: Voices of African American Art, explores how aspects of the African Diaspora influenced African American art and culture, which relates to Kouyate’s West African tradition of oral history-telling and musical performance called Manding Diali,” she said.

According to his biography on the Maryland State Arts Council website, in addition to his solo work, Kouyate performs with guest artists as well as with The Kouyate Family, Urban Afrikan, Farafina Kan, Manding Jata and Spank Rock.

He has performed all over the country and around the world, including the Victoria World Percussion Festival in British Columbia, Canada the Patronio Alvarez Festival in Colombia, the Emancipation Festival in Trinidad and Tobago, “Hera Suite,” featuring a collaboration of compositions and arrangements for the University of Maryland and Montgomery College symphonic and djembe orchestras; and with African American Dance Ensemble.

Kouyate has studied in Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire with master musicians of the Diali tradition including Djimo Kouyate and Toumani Diabate. Amadou Kouyate served as an adjunct lecturer in African music and ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland and as artist-in-residence at Montgomery College.

He is a recipient of the Master/Apprenticeship Award of the Maryland State Arts Council and is currently an artist-in-residence at Strathmore Music Hall in Bethesda, Md.

Kouyate’s repertoire ranges from traditional songs from the 13th century to original contemporary compositions incorporating blues and jazz riffs.

MacMasters said she is a fan of his music and wanted to book him for the museum. She happened upon a YouTube video of Kouyate while doing research and planning for the museum’s concerts.

“You can tell he is so passionate about the storytelling he conveys through the music, and the vibrations resonate throughout his whole being,” MacMaster said. “I am very excited to see him on our stage, filling the Bowman Gallery with the melodies of the Kora instrument, especially.”

Kouyate’s program includes:


Djembe Kan — A benediction of the drum, which usually occurs in the beginning of a presentation to clear the space of any negative energy and prepare for the work to be done.

Sunun — A rhythm once known as Gui that was danced so beautifully by a young woman named Sunun that it remained synonymous with her name.


Djarabi — A love song once used to speak of the love between people. It became the rallying cry for independence in Guinea in 1956.

Djelifoli — The anthem of the Djeli, the oral historians of the Manding culture. Traditionally it was done for the community in a ceremony in which the djelike (male djeli) would remarry their wives every year.


Ntenkerenta — A rhythmic remarking the story of how the people were given the Kutiro drum. This rhythm became a living tale of the magical relationship between the seen and unseen.

Kouyate will perform in the Bowman Gallery, which MacMasters said can hold 100 audience members.

Tickets are $10 for general admission and free for WCMFA Members. To purchase tickets, visit

“Online tickets will become unavailable by the weekend, so if you don’t have your ticket preordered, you can get it at the door, if space permits,” MacMaster said.

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