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Kandia Kouyate, one of West Africa’s most acclaimed singers, will perform the epic story-songs of Mandinka history 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at the Williams Center for the Arts. The tour presentation is in partnership with the World Music Institute of New York City, the region’s premiere curator of musical traditions from throughout the world

Tickets cost $18 and may be ordered by calling the Williams Center box office at 610-330-5009.

There will be a free public presentation 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, for the World Music class taught by Larry Stockton, professor and head of music. The presentation will be given by an ethnomusicologist provided by New York’s World Music Institute for this limited U.S. tour of one of Africa’s musical treasures.

Kouyate’s ensemble includes indigenous African instruments, the kora (21-string harp-lute), the balofon (wooden xylophone), the bolon (bass harp), as well as guitar and back-up singer. She is praised by the New York Times as having “the charisma and vocal power of the most commanding American soul singers.”

Kouyate hails from Mali, the mother lode of great African singers, and exemplifies the tradition of passion and haunting vocal powers that has given the world such artists as Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, and many others. As a female griot (praise singer and oral historian), she sings epic story-songs such as that of Sundiata, the 12th century founder of the great Empire of Mali.

While many West African female singers have donned Western clothing and made careers for themselves in the world of pop, Kouyate has remained true to her roots and honed her art. She was singled out several years ago for her entrancing appearance in the Broadway production Africa Oye, and has been critically acclaimed throughout West Africa, and more recently, Europe. After recording four albums in Africa and being included on compilation CDs on the Sterns and Shanachie labels, Kouyate recently released her first solo CD on the Sterns label.

The 2001-2002 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from members of Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts, and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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