Soungalo Coulibaly was "the" master drummer of Mali:
He had an exceptional command of the djembé, demonstrating an innovative,
virtuoso style of performance equaled by very few West African musicians.
By virtue of his profound knowledge of the tradition in combination with his forceful,
complex performances on the instrument, he was named one of the four best djembé masters,
alongside Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita and Adama Dramé.
Like most traditional drummers, he gained his first musical experience at a very early age
by accompanying work in the fields and playing at village celebrations on the bara and the sabani.
He left Béléko for Fana, then for Côte d'Ivoire, and taught himself to play the djembe,
seizing every opportunity to accompany the djembefolas he met at celebrations, and adopting their music.
When he moved to Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire, in the mid-1970s, he immediately earned a name for himself through
his remarkable musicality and his ability to adapt to all sorts of different styles.
It was there that Soungalo invented 'flez' music - a fusion of djembe, dunun, tama, djidunun, balafon,
kamelengoni, acoustic guitar, karinyan and song.Flez music draws on the repertoires of the bambara, malinke,
fulbe and wasulunka traditions.
Those qualities led to recognition in Europe, where he regularly presented concerts
as well as giving courses
and formed a group with French musician Vincent Zanetti featuring the exceptional
deep earthy voice of Mariam Doumbia-Diakité,who is the real star in Dengo.Soungalo died in 2004 after a short battle with cancer.
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