Djéné Kouyaté was born and raised in a prominent griot family. Unlike the jelimusolu, or the griot women of earlier generations who only sang and played a metal bell, Djéné learned musical instruments like the balafon, n'goni, guitar, drums, and more. (See Sona Jobarteh as well). She also sings in her own words over famous American singers such as Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton. The tonalities of Western music are more diverse than the traditional jeli repertoire. She owes it to her father, Kemo Kouyate, for expanding her musical knowledge beyond the Manding realm.
In this interview, Djéné sings Toni Braxton's "Unbreak my Heart" and her own version of a Manding song she calls "Dounia," or "the world"
In this musical clip, Djéné performs "Confiance" for me at home. She explains to me that the song says, trust is very important in today's world. There are a lot of people who you cannot trust, so we must be careful who we choose to be a true friend.
It is a common theme in Manding Music.
Check back soon to hear Djéné's new project with Piers Faccini.
I first met and heard Djéné Kouyaté sing at the Guinea Music All Stars rehearsal at Studio Bleu in Paris' 10e arrondissement, in the summer of 2022. In this video she sits next to the iconic Sékouba Bambino Diabaté with her son on her lap. They sing "Anou Djeli," We are Jelis. It is such a joyous song. I heard the Guineans like it as well. You can hear the studio version on Spotify but I prefer this version because it highlights Djéné's voice.