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The Electronic Griot from Guinea

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Songlines Music Awards 2017: The Winners

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We’re delighted to announce the winners of the ninth Songlines Music Awards which aim to put a much-deserved spotlight on some incredibly talented artists from around the world. In addition to the Best Artist and Best Group awards – as voted by Songlines readers – we have five geographical awards based on our reviews sections, as well as the World Pioneer and Newcomer Awards chosen by our editorial team. So read on and find out who’s won this year…

Best Group Afro Celt Sound System (The Source on ECC Records)

After a lengthy silence, the return of the Afro Celts seemed something of a risky proposition: would the group’s trademark global dance hybrid that sounded so cutting-edge when first unleashed in 1996 appear outdated some two decades on? Instead 2016’s The Source found the Afro Celts reinvigorated and sounding bigger, better and bolder than ever. Since the last Afro Celts’ album in 2005, a split among its founding members for a time resulted in two rival editions of the group fighting over the name. Happily that dispute has now been settled and it is the Simon Emmerson-led line-up heard on The Source that officially inherits the Afro Celts’ legacy. With a core membership that includes long-serving kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté, the thundering dhol drumming of Johnny Kalsi and the Scottish Gaelic rapper Griogair Labhruidh, there is much that is reassuringly familiar in the swirling mix of African rhythms and Irish jigs and reels. But the sound has also smartly developed, the electronica of earlier incarnations more muted and the acoustic textures more nuanced as the traditional African instruments vie with the pipes and flutes of Celtic heritage, underpinned by bhangra drums, and with vocal decoration ranging from the shamanic voice of Ríoghnach Connolly to Guinean devotional chanting.

N'Faly Kouyaté with Sioen @ GC de Steenoven, Herzele

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About N'Faly Kouyaté

The winner of ‘Talent of Guinea’ (Paris, March 2015, Best group) and again nominated for the Guinean Music Awards (November 2015), N'Faly Kouyaté, is a multi-talented artist coming from a deeply traditional background.

Recently nominated as ‘Ambassador of the Intercultural Dialogue’ in Belgium, winner of the 'Guinée Music Award’ 2012, nominated for the 'Octaves de la Musique 2012' in Belgium, nominated as « Talent Acoustique » on TV5 Monde, he released his new album «CHANGE» on 5th August 2015 in London.

Due to his dexterity and elegance in impassioned playing of the kora, N’Faly Kouyaté became also known as the „Jimi Hendrix of the kora” and «the face» of Afro Celt Sound System. Already in 1999, their projects achieved a Golden Record and in 1999 and 2001 they were even nominated for the Grammy Award.

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