Mamoutou Dembélé, known as EMDE, was born into a family of griots in Sikasso, Mali. Since griots are the guardians of culture and tradition conveyed from one generation to the next, he grew up in an environment of music, storytelling and ancestral dance. He was also called upon to convey this heritage to others, something he has done since childhood.
A self-taught musician, he began playing at age 6. Over time, he also made his own instruments. He thus understands music from the inside, in a sense. He invented his own instrument, the bahouinou (a man’s strings), which has 15 strings and looks like a cross between the kora and the kamelengoni (ngoni).
A descendant of the Bwa ethnic group, straddling Mali and Burkina Faso, he blended the Bwa and Bambara languages. EMDE’s harmonics bring spectators back to the very origins of Bwa traditional music in a Mandinka blues style with jazz, funk and reggae accents.
Now living in Montréal, the young musician has won public and critical acclaim, winning the Syli d’Or award in a world music competition held each year by Productions Nuits d’Afrique. He also received a Coup de Cœur award from the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, enabling him to pursue a concert tour on Montréal island. In addition, U.S.-based Afropop Worldwide radio awarded him the Afropop Prize for best stage performance among nine semi-finalists.
EMDE’s career has thus taken off, with this most recent award enabling him to become known beyond borders through an interview-portrait broadcast on 115 radio stations in the United States, Europe and Africa, as well as artistic support and the recording of a forthcoming album.