Diabaté in the dock | Songlines
Monday, November 16, 2020

Diabaté in the dock

By Spencer Grady

The recent arrest of Sidiki Diabaté has shocked the music community and highlighted issues of domestic violence towards women in Mali

Bamako Images ©Ousmane Makaveli3

Demonstrators take to the streets in Bamako (photo by Ousmane Makaveli)

The Malian music community is divided over the case of Mali's best-selling artist, Sidiki Diabaté (son of the celebrated kora giant Toumani Diabaté), who is in police custody following charges of causing grievous bodily harm and holding captive his (now former) girlfriend, Mariam Sow.

While human rights campaigners and Diabaté's record label, Universal (who have suspended his recording contract), have been quick to respond, there have been several high-profile names, including music producer Barou Diallo, Paris-based guitarist Yacouba Koné and even young female star Kankou Kouyaté, who have attempted to justify Sidiki's behaviour and asked for his release.  

According to educator and activist, Fatouma Harber, the problem is deep-rooted in Malian culture: "The music world in Mali really fears griots like the Diabatés, because they represent a traditional institution. Griots regard other musicians as mere interlopers, a hair in their soup. The failure to condemn Sidiki's actions is because the musicians in Mali are behaving like they are part of his family. Hence the calls for forgiveness."

Check out Bram Posthumus' full report in the December 2020 issue of Songlines. Never miss an issue – subscribe today!


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