1964 – GUINEA
Sekouba Diabate was born in a village 25 km from Siguri in the small West African country Guinea, near the Malian border. Both his parents were griots, or “djeli”, which is the word for blood in Mandinka. Sekouba Diabate’s mother Marlama Samoura died young, Sekouba was not yet 3 years old, and he never got to know her properly. Still she became, through her songs, that Sekouba later heard on the radio, one of his most omportant musical inspirations. Young Sekouba early showed rare musical abilities, but his father was strongly against Sekouba becoming a musician by profession. He wanted Sekouba to take over his own transport company. But music life in Guinea was prospering during Sekouba’s childhood and youth, under the musically interested president Sekou Touré. Several state supported bands were established, one of them the legendary Bembeya Jazz National. Here Sekouba became lead singer as time went by, some years after the death of main vocalist Aboubacar Carrara in 1973. Sekouba who by the time was only 16 years old was invited to sing in the band by president Touré himself who had heard Sekouba sing in a local band. People in Siguri were not very willing to let their great talent go, but had to give in when three ministers from the government were sent to negotiate about Sekouba’s transfer to Bembeya Jazz. The state supported bands were privatized in the nineteen eighties, and Bembeya Jazz fell apart. In 1990 Sekouba Bambino, as he now had started to call himself, founded his own band and made his first cassett “Sama”. In 1992 came the album “Le Destin”. A few years later he met producer Ibrahim Sylla and has since become cooperator on several of Sylla’s projects, among others in the salsa band Africando.
Sekouba Bambino’s strength lies first and foremost in his voice, with its formidable spectrum. “Had he been a European, he would have become an opera singer,” claims Lucy Duran, a leading specialist in West African music in England.