Ba Cissoko is not only a master of the kora and one of the instrument's leading proponents, but a member of griot (master singers, kora players, and storytellers) legacy. So much so that the Cissoko name means nothing less than kora mastery. Though his father was a nationally recognized artist, his instruction did not hook young Ba on the instrument or minstrel lifestyle, as he preferred soccer to both music and his studies. When his uncle M'Baty Kouyate learned of Ba's indifference, he offered to apprentice the boy, teaching him kora rudiments and taking him on tours of local villages, playing various parties and celebrations. As a duo the pair began to tour the nation's cities, including Conakry and Bissao, even stretching to neighboring nations like Gambia and Senegal. Some time later Cissoko settled in Conakry, where he worked at the National Children's Theatre, eventually moving up the ladder to taking work with the National Instrumental Ensemble of Guinea, again under his uncle's instruction. During his time with the prestigious outfit, Cissoko began playing hotels and bars, mixing traditional repertoire with modern influences like jazz, reggae, and more. In 1992 Cissoko took up with a French trumpet and kora player named Gilles Poizat, forming the group Tamalalou. The band toured throughout Guinea and France, playing important national stages and festivals. The band split some years later, and Cissoko assembled a group to perform under his own name, accompanied by his cousins Kourou and Sekou Cissoko. After their inception in 1999, the band maintained a busy performance schedule, creating large fan bases in France and on their native soil. Cissoko made his recording debut in 2003 with the record Sabolan. Pairing musical excellence with a mission to improve working and living conditions in Guinea, Cissoko and his band embarked on a tour that blanketed Europe and Japan. Enjoying high visibility and esteem, Cissoko and his colleagues set out to record their second record, which would push the genre-crossing envelope even farther, incorporating everything from electronic effects to English-language hip-hop lyrics. Following Electric Griot Land's release in 2007, Cissoko cracked the U.S. market with an extensive tour of the States. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez
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