History | ENGLISH

FRANÇAIS

Assane and Ousseynou Kouyate are talented twins born and raised in Senegal, West Africa, of a family line originating in Mali and Guinea. The name “Kouyate” is very famous in West Africa.  They are descendants of a long line of griots known in their native Mandinko language as jelis (djélis). Griots are the poets, genealogists, history tellers and keepers of West African song and dance traditions.

The Kouyate’s grandparents were well-known griots who performed for the kings and nobles of West Africa. Their grandfather, Ndaba Kouyate, from Mali, played the ngoni, a traditional West African lute.His wife, Djeneba Sakliba, also from Mali, sang for African royalty. They eventually moved to Gambia at the request of the king to perform for the people and advise him throughout his reign. Their grandfather  (mother’s side), Mamadou Bintu Diabate, was a talented kora player from Guinea while grandmother, Butor Sakliba, was a singer from Senegal. The couple was the first of many griots to take a boat and venture into Paris, France to perform. The Kouyate’s grandparents were highly respected because of their rich culture, orally and physically transmitted and passed down from generation to generation.

Assane & Ousseynou Kouyate were raised and trained in these cultural traditions. They have been singing,dancing and performing professionally since the age of 13 and were lead dancers and choreographers with Le Ballet National du Senegal and the Sinomew Ballet of Senegal. They danced professionally with both ballets for over 5 years, touring internationally throughout South and North America, Europe, Africa and Taiwan. The duo has also electrified audiences, gracing the stage with many renown West African artists including Youssou N’Dour, Toumani Diabate, Ami Koita, Baaba Maal and Kine Lam to name a few.

Now residing in the United States, “The twins” as they are affectionally called, are committed to educating people about their culture and sharing the profound beauty of their art. As artistic directors and educators, they have instructed classes and master workshops in Africa, Europe and the United States. They have also developed their own company, Sekhou Senegal (formerly Djialy Kunda Kouyate), which has had members in Hawaii and California, and frequent guest performers from Africa.  The group performs as a world music and dance ensemble at  international festivals, concerts and educational programs. Some of these included: Point Richmond Summer Music Concert Series, CA, Berkeley World Music Festival, CA,Reggae on the River, CA World Arts West: People Like Me, CA, Globalquerque, NM, Summerfest, NM and Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, NM…and the list goes on. Sekhou Senegal consists of the twins, their manager and 6 band members playing traditional African instruments including the djembe, dun dun, sabar and talking drums, kora, ngoni, balafon and the added modern flare of the keyboard, percussion and bass.

The Kouyate twins take great pride and joy in their traditions. It is their desire to broaden the understanding of West African culture around the globe by exposing audiences and participants to artistry of the highest caliber.

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