Malima Kone is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Burkina Faso, West Africa. Originally from Mali, Malima comes from the ancient jeli (griot) music tradition of the Bwaba people, dating back to the Mali/Manding Empire. Malima kone was born Salifou Kone on October 31st 1984 in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. He was given the name Tayourou Malima at age 5 by his paternal grand father Wamia Kone which means ‘’The Way it Is’’.
As a forerunner of generations of his family’s cultural heritage, Malima has drawn from his lifetime of music study to preserve the sounds of his ancestors’ traditional music and infuse them into a unique style that mixes African roots with world acoustic reggae.
Born into the renowned Kone family of West Africa, Malima grew up with the strong musical influence of his family’s jeli tradition, learning to play his first few instruments (bala, jembe, kora) by the time he was three. He was a seasoned performer by age five, and after picking up guitar, keyboard, and drums, Malima was composing original music and lyrics by fourteen.
Much of his childhood was spent touring throughout Africa and Europe, awarding him an early understanding of life, culture, and music on a larger, world-wide scale. Many of his lyrics are based on those childhood experiences and how they shaped his perception of the world today. Stories of orphans, street children, and family struggles, along with messages of equality, liberty, compassion, and togetherness fill his songs. In keeping with his universal approach, Malima sings in five languages—English, French, Bwamu, Bamana/Jula, and Moore.
After spending his youth developing his skill, Malima began focusing on his sound, drawing inspiration from artists like Ismael Isaac, Lucky Dube, Alpha Blondy, Salif Keita, Amadou & Mariam Doumbia, and Ismael Lo, among others. What resulted is a beautiful blend of African folk, reggae, and world music.
Malima launched his music career in the U.S. performing as a solo acoustic artist. His strong vocals and raw style landed him several pivotal gigs, opening for Alpha Blondy at the Independent (San Francisco 2007), and Marianne Aya Omac with Joan Baez at the Catalyst (Santa Cruz, CA 2012).
Once forming a band, Malima sweetened his sound by incorporating traditional African percussion, kora (harp), flute, and saxophone with the standard guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard. This fusion has attracted fans and audiences across several genres. Malima and his band WeMeWo, which means “From the Heart” in the Buawba language has played for packed houses at Yoshi’s (Oakland), The Independent (San Francisco), The Rio Theatre (Santa Cruz, CA), Whisky A Go Go (Los Angeles), and Esalen (Big Sur, CA).
Malima has also played in Canisy/Normandy (France), Paris (France), Laussanne (Switzerland), and Bamako (Mali). In 2005, Malima returned home to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to perform for the opening ceremonies at FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou), the biggest Black film festival in the world.
Malima is currently working on the final stages of his debut album, soon to be released. He continues to travel back home to his roots in Africa, finding inspiration while visiting family and friends. He believes that through his music his message can transcend geographical and cultural barriers to inspire hope and consciousness around the world.
Malima’s family background and music tradition was documented in the film Great Great Great Grandparent’s Music by Taale Laafi Rosellini. An intimate glimpse into the lives of a long lineage of innate musicians, the film has received world-wide recognition, including the Prix Special at FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou), a nomination for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival (the biggest Black film festival in the United States), and a premiere at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. To learn more about the film, please visit www.africanfamily.org.