Prince Diabaté

West African Kora Music

Prince DiabatePrince Diabaté, who was born in a traditional griot family in Guinea, learned to play the kora at age 5 from his father, Djéli Sori Diabaté, a master kora player and soloist in the Ensemble Instrumentale Nationale de la Guinée.  His mother, a traditional griotte singer, became the first female kora player in West Africa.  When Prince was nine years old, the President of Guinea, Sekou Touré, took him as a protégé and enrolled him in the National Children’s Theatre.  At sixteen, Prince won first prize in an international kora competition in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and acquired his nickname Prince Diabaté, Prince of the Kora.  He has performed throughout Europe, Africa, and North America, and he is dedicated to keeping the traditional art form alive by teaching it to his students and introducing it to new audiences in Southern California.

In West Africa, the djélis or griots are key figures in helping Mandé society and families preserve their histories through song and oral sagas.  Traditionally, they were the oral historians and counselors of kings in the old Mandingo Empire, a region including the West African nations of Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, and parts of Burkina Faso.  Today griots sings at births, baptisms, weddings, and important village ceremonies, relating family history and important events while playing the kora, a 21-string instrument made of wood, animal hide, and calabash.

In 2003, Prince was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, with apprentice Habibou Sissoko.  Their apprenticeship focused on broadening and deepening Habibou’s repertoire so he can perform publicly with his master.

Select Performances

Noe Valley Music Series, San Francisco, California 2005

Live Oak Festival, Santa Barbara, California, 2004

Festival des Francofolies de Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2003

Sounds of LA 2002, Getty Center, Los Angeles, California

Opening Night Gala of the World Festival of Sacred Music, Los Angeles, California, 2002

Grand Performances, California Plaza, Los Angeles, California, 2001


LA Treasures Award, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Los Angeles, California, 2004

Artists’ Resource for Completion Grant, Durfee Foundation, Los Angeles, California, 2004

Fund for US Artists Grant, New York, New York, 2003

ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program Master Artist, 2003

LA Weekly Music Awards Nominee, Los Angeles, California, 2002

Finalist in the International Song Competition & International Acoustic Music Awards,
2004 & 2005

Winner, Pacific Songwriting Competition, Australasia, 2005

Teaching Experience

Private instruction, 6 students, 2000-2005

Lectures and demonstrations at University of California Los Angeles, Department of Ethnomusicology, Los Angeles, CA, 2000-2005

Lectures and demonstrations at University of California San Diego, Department of Music, San Diego, CA, 2002-2005

Lectures and demonstrations at California State University Northridge, Department of Music, Northridge, CA, 2000-2005

Lectures and demonstrations at University of California, Riverside, Music Department, Riverside, CA, 2003-2005

Lectures and demonstrations at Occidental College, Los Angeles, California, Music Department, Los Angeles, CA, 2001-2004

Lectures and demonstrations at Santa Monica College, Music Department, Santa Monica, CA, 2001-2004

Professional Services

Educational presentations to schools or community organizations


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