You may have heard the surname, but guitarist Zani Diabate is not as well known as some of the other Diabate clan (a family of girots) which is a shame as he is probably the most influential. In early 2011, while putting the finishing touches on a new record in Paris with Les Héritiers (a band of young musicians including his own son) he died at the age of just 63. It was fitting that when he passed, he was passing his music knowledge onto the ‘The Heirs’; who I’m sure learned a great deal from his experience.
Ending up as one of Mali’s top guitarists took years of hard work: he started as a member of the National Ballet du Mali in the 1960’s and emerged in the 80’s as the leader of The Super Djata Band. Over the next 20 years, performing electrified versions of traditional Bamana music, they toured globally and were the first Malian band to take their sounds to the rest of the world. However, Zani never really made a name for himself internationally and remained strongly involved domestically on the Bamako music scene incorporating modern styles with traditional African ones.
His last recordings were released this summer as ‘Tientalaw’ via Sterns Music and it is an album not to miss. A lively set with pulsing bass and complex rhythms, but when Zani plays it is a truly magical experience which shows off the joy and passion he had for music. Just check out the solo at the end of ‘Ni Zani Mama’ once it jumps to double time halfway through. Classic stuff: