Kimi Djabaté Transforms His Childhood Trauma Into Songs of Joy, Love and Activism on New Album Dindin
Blending traditional Afro-Portuguese rhythms with Afrobeat grooves,
electric desert blues and hints of Cuban swing, Djabaté weaves a
unique tapestry of smooth, funky and intricate sounds.
Dindin is both highly personal, featuring intimate songs dedicated to
family and friends, and undeniably universal in its themes of love,
communication and human connection.
CD Available Worldwide on February 24th, 2023
For the gifted guitarist, percussionist and balafón (African xylophone) player Kimi Djabaté, music is not just his passion, it is part of his geneology. Born in Tabato, Guinea-Bissau in 1975, Djabaté was raised by a family of griots, West African troubadours who wandered from village to village, preserving ancient oral traditions and passing down essential cultural knowledge through song. In Djabaté’s exceptional new album Dindin, the multitalented musician carries on the customs of his griot heritage, singing entrancingly about the complexity of life in modern Africa for a broad, international audience.
Meaning “children” in Mandinga, Dindin meditates on the social and political situation in Africa, treating difficult themes such as religion, women’s rights, poverty and education with sensitivity and nuance. Continuously optimistic about the power of music and its message to create a better future for Africans, Djabaté’s magical songs remain uplifting and hopeful even as they reflect on contemporary struggles and challenges. “The future is something that I construct with the present,” says Djabaté, and this is precisely what he accomplishes with his insightful lyrics and moving melodies.
Djabaté is always seeking alternative ways of incorporating the sounds of his griot heritage with new musical styles. Blending traditional Afro-Portuguese rhythms with Afrobeat grooves, electric desert blues and hints of Cuban swing, Djabaté weaves a unique tapestry of smooth and intricate sounds. The gentle notes of Djabaté’s masterful balafón playing mix beautifully with the acoustic guitar, bass and accordion and keyboard, played by Paulo Borges. Dindin will easily become a new favorite album for fans of Habib Koité, Toumani Diabaté, Cesaria Evora, Sara Tavares and others.
The sounds of Djabaté’s childhood––from traditional Mandingo music and the West African dance music style gumbé, Cape Verdean morna and Nigerian Afrobeat to western jazz and blues––echo throughout his latest album, drawing connections between his past and the present moment. Djabaté fondly remembers impatiently waiting by the radio on Wednesday evenings to listen to the only program that featured music from outside Guinea-Bissau so he could expand his inspirations and repertoire.
Music was not a hobby for Djabaté, however, but the family occupation which he was required to contribute to from a young age. His parents gave him his first balafón when he was three years old to keep him entertained while his mother cooked and did housework. Soon recognized as a prodigy, Djabaté began playing at weddings and baptisms at the age of eight and was sent to a nearby village to study the kora a few years later. His early introduction to a variety of traditional instruments laid the foundation for his later mastery of the guitar and skill with a range of percussion instruments.
Djabaté’s talents proved both a gift and a burden, as his family often forced him to sing and dance against his will, and he had little time to partake in the carefree fun and games of other children his age. In addition, Djabaté faced financial challenges, struggling even to afford food at times. This is a theme he returns to on his new album’s title track, “Dindin,” on which he sings “Don’t exploit children / Help children become better human beings / Don’t exploit children / Educate them.” In the music video for the song, joyful children play clapping games, hopscotch and jump rope, and hold signs saying “I want to be safe from war, from violence” and “I want to play.” As the lyrics reflect, adults have the power to break the cycle of harm by encouraging children to grow up to become better human beings. Although Djabaté speaks with the pain of personal experience, Dindin is not a mournful song; instead, it carries hope that his message will be heard.
This commitment to justice is a primary theme of the entire album, in particular the song Omanhe, which directly translates to “something bad,” reflecting Kimi’s feelings towards the tradition of forced marriage. Djabaté vividly recalls his first exposure to a forced marriage when he was a young musician and asked his mother why the bride was crying. When his mother admonished him for asking questions instead of playing music, Djabaté realized his lyrics had more power than his spoken words. In this pivotal moment, he resolved to harness music’s potential to inspire change. He acts on this mission in Dindin, spreading the message about Africa’s social and political conditions, singing, as he puts it, “with an insider’s voice.”
The album opens with the funky grooves of “Afonhe,” a song about the difficulties some people with being honest. “Nowadays people have some troubles with telling the truth, to have clarity in their communication,” explains Djabaté. “Because love also means trusting the other. If there is no truth things will get complicated later.”
Backed by interlocking balafon and guitar lines and a soulful accordion riff, “Yensoro” is a song about giving a relationship a chance to grow before calling it off. “We had a chance / To be happy / But you didn’t wait / You had me in your hands / I had you in mine / But you didn’t wait.”
With its striking electric rock guitar riffs, “Alidonke” is one of the highlights of the album. With hints of Tuareg desert blues, and a driving, irresistible beat, Kimi sings joyfully of love. “Smile at me / My love / Speak to me / Give me your hand / It’s you that I want / The love of my life arrived / My friend has arrived.”
This voice, the voice of a native African raised in the griot culture, also continues their musical traditions, such as the practice of composing tribute songs to the most influential people in your life. “Ná,” meaning “mother,” is a languid and soulful tune dedicated and addressed to Kimi’s late mother. Despite its melancholy subject, the song assures her not to cry, since the world is a complicated place where happiness and pain are always intertwined.
Dindin is both highly personal, featuring intimate songs dedicated to family and friends, and undeniably universal in its themes of love, communication, and human connection. As Djabaté reflects and accomplishes in this remarkable album, “I’m always trying to find other ways that allow me to travel with music. Music has no boundaries.”
For more information, music samples, or to arrange interviews, contact:
Cumbancha: firstname.lastname@example.org / 802-425-2118 Bios, photos, music videos, lyrics and more available at www.cumbancha.com/kimidjabate