'The West African griot is a troubadour, the counterpart of the medieval European minstrel … [whose] virtuoso talents … command universal admiration … [and] is the culmination of long years of study and hard work under the tuition of a teacher who is often a father or uncle.’  Francis Bebey, 1969, 1975. African Music, A People’s Art, Lawrence Hill Books Brooklyn 

Traditionally, a griot (French) or jeli (Mandinka; Bambara) is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and/or musician.


The Kouyate line of griots that exists to this day emerged during the Mali Empire of the 14th century. True to this, Malian musician Aboubacar Djéliké Kouyate was born into the jeli tradition in the riverside village of Djoliba during the 1970s and from the age of seven, under the eye of his father Adama Kouyate (Super Rail Band Bamako), began formal training in the inherited oral and instrumental traditions that have been passed down through the centuries.

At the age of fifteen, Aboubacar left Mali and continued his training for more than a decade, with mentor Moussa Sylla’s troupe Allah Tantoo in Guinea, and as a member of the Mamady Cissoko Ballet in Senegal. When he moved to the Gambia, Aboubacar created his first group The Cultural Sundiata Band and eventually arrived in Lille, France at the age of 28. This era opened up opportunities for many new collaborations, in particular with musician Simon Demouveaux (Hassan Bossou Gnawa Racines) to form the band Badala Foly, which Aboubacar continues to lead.

Over the past 13 years Aboubacar has sustained an active career as a professional musician in France and neighbouring countries, leading two bands as singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, as a contributor to many other musical collaborations and as a teacher of African percussion, story and culture in the broader community. 

Today, Aboubacar’s performances represent a lifetime of dedication and passion for the tradition he has inherited. He brings an exuberant and contemporary interpretation of the traditional 'griot' art form, combining his masterful command of voice, instrument, rhythm, lyric and fellow musicians into compelling, danceable song sets.

In late 2017, Aboubacar journeyed to Melbourne with his guitar as his companion, to reunite with Australian friends and see for himself ‘the live music capital of the world’. For three months Aboubacar explored the city, enjoyed the summer weather, made many new friends and accepted every invitation to informally jam and make music. 

Aboubacar is always seeking new opportunities to share his passion and experience, and desire to expand his own boundaries and potential, in partnership with other musicians and diverse communities.