5-Minute Interview With Moussa Diallo

Meet Moussa Diallo: Mali’s Finest Afro-Jazz Artist

Our work allows us to meet some phenomenal artists from around Africa who have got fantastic stories to tell about their talent, passion and their craft.

As you know, that’s what we stand for – talent.

‘Kipawa’ means talent, and so when we get a chance to celebrate talent in our regular 5-Minute Interview, you know we’re going to take the chance.

That’s where Moussa Diallo comes in.  5-minute interview with Moussa Diallo

We first met Moussa Diallo in Zanzibar where we performed side by side with him during the Jahazi Festival.

Two years later, we got the opportunity to host him in our own festival, the All that Jazz International Festival in June 2013. Since then, we’ve maintained a great bond and friendship that extends beyond the stage.

Moussa is one of the finest Afro-Jazz artists in Africa with a massive fan base in Denmark, where he resides, and in his native Mali.

Moussa regularly performs in tour circuits in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

We caught up with him to find out more of his music background, current projects and future plans.

Here’s our 5-Minute Interview with Moussa Diallo

Introduce us to Moussa Diallo…

MD: I was born in Paris in 1955. My father was Malian and my mother Danish. (There is more info on my website) www.moussadiallo.com


KM: Which artists have had the most impact on your life and career?

MD: There have been many, but I can mention a few in chronological order.

  1. Jimi Hendrix
  2. The Rolling Stones
  3. James Brown
  4. Fela Kuti
  5. Sly and The Family Stones
  6. Salif Keita
  7. Larry Graham
  8. Louis Johnson

KM: Let’s explore your art as a storyteller. what kind of stories do you tell and are  they told only in song form?

MD: I’m using traditional children stories from Mali, some in their original form and others I have changed. Then I also write my own stories.

I tell them mainly in song form, but also with storytelling. In our tradition in Mali, every story has its song and it is a great way of getting the audience involved.


KM: How and where did your musical journey start?

MD: My musical journey started in Mali. I got my first guitar at the age of 16 and formed my first band in Bamako in 1971.

We were called ‘Mansa’ meaning ‘kings’.


KM: What’s your style of music?

MD: My style of music is cosmopolitan, with a strong African influence. But again, some of my earlier music was very much inspired by funk, rock and soul.


KM: How did you identify this as your signature sound?

I developed my sound and style throughout the years, trying to stay true to my musical instinct, passion and inspirations.


KM: Where are you based now?

I’ve been based in Denmark since 1973.


KM: Walk us through your albums from 1st to present day album and the inspiration behind each

  1. Diallo 1992: My first album, funk, rock, inspired by western music.
  2. Amora 1997: Pop, soul, rock, with a little African and Indian touch.
  3. The Kékéliba Project 1999: My first World Music album, Cosmopolitan with a strong influence from Mali.
  4. Live Cph JazzHouse 2001:  Concert with my band at the Copenhagen JazzHouse.
  5. Chiwara 2002: Acoustic world music featuring musicians from Mali. Receive a Danish Grammy for Best World Music Release of the year 2003.
  6. Der var engang…  2004: World Music release for children. 12 songs related to a children storytelling book I wrote bearing the same title. This project has been very well received in schools all over Scandinavia and I’m still touring a lot with the music, playing mainly in schools and festivals. I later made an English and French version of both the CD and the books in 2009. The music can be purchased digitally through iTunes, Spotify, etc or physically at http://www.gatewaymusicshop.dk/.
  7. Reflections  2005: Four (4) experimental compositions for an art exhibition, inspired by the works of 4 renown Scandinavian painters.
  8. Retrospective 2006: In 2006 I received the prestigious Danish award ‘Ken Gudmans Prisen’ for my contribution to Danish music. I made a compilation CD for the occasion.
  9. Acoustic Groove 2008: An acoustic version of my African influenced releases with a few new tunes.
  10. Out of Tune 2008: Was released at the same time as Acoustic Groove. Totally different style of music. Funk, soul and rock with English lyrics.
  11. Once Upon A Time 2009: English version of my children CD ‘Der var engang…’
  12. Blues for 333 Saints 2013: Inspired by the unrest and war in Mali. World Music CD.
  13. Miniyamba 2013: Sound track for a mini animated documentary about a Malian musician’s struggle emigrating to Europe. DVD and CD combo package.
  14. Løveprinsen Sundjata 2016: The story of the great Malian King Soundjata told through a musical performance recorded on CD in Danish. The English version will soon be available digitally and features a line-up of great Malian artists.


KM: Tell us about Out Of Tune. Sounds like an odd title for a music album!!

MD: Out of Tune is not African inspired. I had demos of songs from as far as the early 90ies, that I decided to record and release.

The lyrics on the record are my reflection on the state of affairs in the world. Man’s inability to be in tune with himself and the world in general.


KM: How did you integrate Malian music elements in your music?

MD: It came naturally when I decided to reconnect with my Malian musical roots in the early 90ies.


KM: Tell us about the Kinkeliba project.

MD: In the early 90’s, I went to Mali to make a documentary film about music in Mali.

I had the opportunity to meet a lot amazing musicians and that led to the making of the CD, which is a musical interaction between Danish and Malian artists.


KM: You incorporate kora in your performance among other African instruments. Give us a run-down on all the African instruments you employ in your performance.

MD: Live I mainly have the kora and African percussions, but on recordings you can hear Balafon, ngoni, kamale ngoni, kora, sokoun, kalimba, percussions like calabash, djembe…


KM: So let me ask… as far as your career progression goes, has living in Denmark have a profound progressive influence as opposed to say living in Mali?

MD: I have lived in Denmark since I was 18 and it brought me great opportunities.


KM: Give us a glimpse into Mali – the culture, the music, the people and its influence on you?

MD: Malian music is extremely rich and diverse and plays a huge role in society.

People are generous and friendly, despite the difficult living conditions. I travel to Mali every year and I’m always happy to return to see family and friends.  The people, nature and music inspire me greatly.


KM: For most artists, the biggest question would be how to penetrate international tour circuits. what tips would you give them?

MD: Keep perfecting your art and use social media like youtube and Facebook to promote your music.


KM: In Nairobi, a couple of years ago, you put on one of the most electric live performances I have ever seen! The following year, you came back, I believe, and performed at Village Market. Any more African tours scheduled for this year?

MD: Maybe Tanzania and Zanzibar


KM: As far as places to perform in Africa, which places would you rank as your absolute favorite place to perform?

MD: Every place has it’s own charm and magic.


KM: Let’s talk about a live concert performance. The greatest ability of any artist is how to connect with your audience. Does this come easy for you?

MD: I think it is important to remain true to yourself and open. Connecting with my audience is something I enjoy and comes naturally to me.


KM: Your best picks for best festivals for African artists to participate in?

MD: There are so many festivals all over the world and I haven’t been everywhere. Every opportunity to play be it a big or a small venue is important.

Some artists have been discovered playing the smallest venues, which kick started an international career.

Never underestimate your audience and the venue.


KM: When it comes to songwriting what come first,the lyrics or the tune…or both?

MD: All three. It depends on the task ahead. But generally I like to do both.


KM: What are your top 7 Moussa Diallo favorites? Give us the history behind each single.

MD: Every piece of music has its story and I don’t have any particular favorites.


KM: What are your top tips  for any upcoming artist on the Africa continent today?

MD: Keep on doing what you’re good at, stay open and positive.


KM: You have a special love for Zanzibar… what exactly happened?

MD: From day 1 we were received with open arms and warmth.

People appreciated our music and through that we made friends there.


KM: What projects/tours/concert can we expect from you in the pipeline?

MD: I’m working on a few projects in Denmark.

A new children CD and books. I am also making the music for a Danish Animated movie for children, which will be released later this year.

I’m also involved in the planning and execution of the Spot on Mali Music Festival, which is a platform to present Malian artists to an international audience.

We’ve already had 4 editions of the festival and we have 3 more editions planned.

The project has been financially supported by the Danish Embassy in Mali and the Danish government. http://www.spotonmalimusic.org


KM: You are one of Africa’s finest musicians,a great role model, a storyteller and a terrific performer! It’s a great honor catching up with you again, Moussa!

MD: Thank you for your kind words.


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