Cheikh N'Digel Lô was born in the late 1950s to Senegalese parents in Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso and began playing drums and singing at an early age.
He joined Orchestre Volta Jazz, a Bobo variety band that played Cuban and Congolese pop songs as well as traditional Burkinabé music. Lô moved to Senegal in 1978, performing in several mbalax outfits. By then, the Zairean sound was in full flower, Camerounian makossa was coming on strong, and reggae had entered the mix, and Lô absorbed everything. In 1985, he was playing guitar with numerous Côte d'Ivoire and French musicians, which led him to record material in Paris in 1987. After his band dissolved, Lô remained in Paris as a session musician, developing his own sound, described as a mix of mbalax, reggae and soukous influences. He spent most of his time in recording studios, and he picked up as much as he could. His casual contacts with Zaire's most successful progressive singer, Papa Wemba, were especially memorable. "I was a drummer. So when there was a group who came and didn't have a drummer, I would practice with them. Papa Wemba's drummer was also a businessman, so if he wasn't there, I would help out. He's from the school of Tabu Ley, and when I was young, I listened to Tabu Ley a lot."
In 1995, Youssou N'Dour offered to produce Lô's debut album, Ne La Thiass, which became a success worldwide.
In 2000, Lô sang alongside Ibrahim Ferrer on "Choco's Guajira", from Cuban pianist Rubén González's album Chanchullo.
In 2002, he appeared on two tracks of the Red Hot Organization's tribute album to Fela Kuti, Red Hot and Riot. He collaborated with Les Nubians and Manu Dibango on one of the tracks, "Shakara / Lady (Part Two)."
Lô is a member of the Baye Fall, a movement within the Mouride Sufi order of Islam. As such, he has dreadlocks, which is part of the order's customs. The reggae influence in his music, along with his dreadlocks, often leads to the misinterpretation that he is Rastafarian.
Sekouba "Bambino" Diabate was born in a village 25 km from Siguri, he began singing with local bands in 1972 (he was given the nickname ‘Bambino’ because he was so young). He won the prize for best vocalist at Guinea’s National Arts and Culture Festival in 1979, as a result of which he was invited to become lead singer with the state-sponsored Orchestre Bembeya Jazz National . He stayed with the group until 1990, when he left to pursue a solo career. Soon afterwards, he released his debut cassette and Le Destin, a bestselling follow-up in 1992. Both releases featured Diabaté’s powerful and still youthful-sounding vocals, backed by a chorus of female singers and a band playing predominantly traditional West African instruments. Le Destin was released internationally on CD by the German Popular African Music label with two tracks from Diabaté’s debut African cassette. In 1996, by now a huge star among West Africans both at home and in Europe, Diabaté provided vocals for tracks on Africando’s Gumbo Salsa and in the following year released Kassa under the name Sékouba Bambino. Produced by Ibrahima Sylla, best known for his groundbreaking work on Salif Keita’s Soro, Kassa featured re-recordings of songs from his earlier African releases as well as new material.
Alpha Yaya Diallo
Diallo was born in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. When he was young, he followed his father, a doctor who was in demand all around the country; this exposed him to a wide variety of cultural experiences, both from the different ethnic groups within Guinea itself and from neighboring countries.
When Guinea gained its independence from France in 1958, its Marxist first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré, launched a cultural program aimed at the rediscovery and support of "Guinea's music, arts, dance and languages. Diallo recalled that, "At the time every family had a member who was being trained in music." He started playing percussion in school, but taught himself to play the guitar at an early age (either "probably six or seven" according to his inconsistent recollections). At the University of Conakry, he became the bandleader of the Sons of Rais and toured extensively with them throughout West Africa. After graduation, he performed with Love Systems, Kaloum Star and Sorsornet Rhythm.
Diallo moved to Europe in the mid-1980s, where he worked particularly with the Fatala group, which played traditional Guinean music and was associated with Peter Gabriel's music label. After extensive touring, Diallo settled down in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1991. In 1993, he released his solo first album, Nene, which was nominated for a Juno Award, as was his 1996 album Futur. He won his first Juno, for The Message in 1999 in the "Best World Music Album" category, a second in 2002 (for The Journey) and shared a third in 2004 for the African Guitar Summit compilation. He released Djama in 2005. He won the Best World Artist-Solo at the inaugural Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2006. He plays with Ghanaian guitarist Pa Joe Diallo, Adam Solomo and Mighty Popo in African Guitar Summit. In addition to the guitar, he also plays the balafon and the djembe. His backup band, since 1992, is called Baffing.