Moh! Kouyaté’s beautiful voice softly serenades is with the themes of love and humanity over the guitar, the kora, the bass and other acoustic instruments.
New album Mohkoya is out, december 2023.
Available for booking
Seeing Moh Kouyaté live, in concert, the audience goes on a journey into a world that is both familiar and unknown, modern and traditional. The music brings us to dance as well as to attentively listen, mixing intimate moments with the sometimes furious energy of urban inspirations.
Moh was born and raised in the lineage of jelis (griots), in Guinea, West Africa. Moh first devoted himself to learning the balafon, an emblematic instrument of the Manding tradition. Both his father and grandfather were guitar griots, and his father taught Moh the first rudiments of the guitar. However, he recalls that his grandmother gave him his first string instrument: “She had a very special role in my life. I slept at her house, I ate with her, she gave me a lot of love. She was the one who bought me a ukulele at the market when I was about twelve years old, and told me that a young griot should play and also sing.” A griot’s rhythm, melody, and words are meant to encourage solidarity and to inspire us to think and act for the greater good of humanity, and that is certainly what we find in Moh’s music.
From his adolescence, he accompanied his father in ceremonies and parties, but early in life he created his own group, the Conakry Cocktail, marking the evenings of the Guinean capital, Conakry. At that time, one of Moh’s heroes, the great Guinean guitarist Amadou Sadio Diallo, gave him a George Benson CD. Diallo told him, “you want to really play the guitar? Go listen to that!” So he took the CD and listened. His reaction, “What is this? I don’t understand anything! There’s no melody!” Diallo encouraged him to listen again, “That,” he told a young Moh, “is jazz.”
That set Moh in a new direction. He devoured George Benson, BB King, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix. Some say that Jimi Hendrix seems to guide Moh’s fingers when he launches into free improvisations, even if Moh refrains from comparing himself to the guitar wizard.
Moh’s first band, The Conakry Cocktail, paid tribute to the icons of Guinean music such as Bembeya Jazz with the guitarist Sékou Diabaté, and Ousmane Kouyaté, one of Salif Keïta’s guitarists, and above all, Djeli Sory Kandia Kouyaté, the golden voice of Guinea. But these sounds mixed with the more contemporary accents of George Benson, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and eventually, Ben Harper.
In the early 2000s the American bluesman Corey Harris went to Guinea and met Moh which would end up having a huge influence on Moh’s formation as a budding international musician. The two musicians formed an instant bond, a natural continuation of a sad story of separation by generations and the transatlantic slave trade, only to be reunited in a common passion for music and equality. He then went on tour with Corey Harris in the United States. They travelled from Key West to Vermont, spent time in Mississippi and New York City, meeting some of the greatest American bluesmen, both known and unknown. Their tour continued in Europe. This intense cross-cultural musical experience had a profound influence on Moh, who now finds himself quite comfortable speaking English or French and playing in any corner of the world. Meh and Cory remain good friends, and have been hoping to make an album together at some point.
By 2006 he became a permanent resident of Paris, France and became the sideman of the singer Fatoumata Diawara, accompanied his compatriot Ba Cissoko. They occupied the stages from big European festivals, to the cafés or Parisian jams.
After settling in France, he released his first album, Cilo, then a second, Loundo (which means “One day” in Mandinka). The hit song, “T’en va pas, ça ne va pas,” played frequently on French radio and in nightclubs in 2015-2016. After almost two years of touring Loundo, he released his third album, Fe Toki, in September 2017, which led to his first live show at the legendary New Morning in Paris.
Moh! Kouyaté went on to concerts (Banlieues Bleues, Musiques Métisses, WOMAD, Chorus des Hauts-de-Seine, Le Plan, Africa Festival18, Sakifo Musik Festival, Womex, etc.) and continued to build his career on the foundations of his apprenticeship. Anxious to share, bi-cultural and multi-lingual, he remains attentive to the expectations of young Guinean artists, in the hope of being able to take part in the development of the Guinean artistic scene, relying on his acquired experience and its networks built in Europe. In 2019 he formed the Guinea Music All Stars, a band with a rotating roster of Guinea’s best musicians.
Moh is releasing his next, all acoustic album in the Fall 2023 called Mokhoya, or “Humanity.” Several singles, “Siiya,” “Wodimbo,” and “Falou Fema,” have already been released. The instrumentation represents the atmosphere of a moment, a place or an encounter. His lyrics, which he sings in Mandinka, SouSou, or French, perpetuate the celebration of peace, solidarity and our common humanity. He inspires courage, hope, and love, and a better projection of ourselves into the future. Moh’s beautiful voice softly serenades us with themes of love and humanity over the guitar, the kora, the bass and other acoustic instruments.