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École De Musique de Kirina

Kirina, Mali

L’Ecole de Musique de Kirina offers a dynamic music and dance program to 200 students. The creation of the program began in 2009 when Mahamadou Diabaté, brother of Grammy Award-winning Kora player, Toumani Diabaté, and a wonderful musician in his own right, approached us about building a music school in his native country of Mali. The school is located in the village of Kirina, approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of Mali’s capital city, Bamako.

Kirina is a Griot village without electricity, where the inhabitants live in humble straw roofed houses made of bricks that have dried in the sun's heat. The Griots play an essential role in Malian culture; they are the keepers of oral history and traditions, passing them on through music and poetry. Kirina has been preserving its unique musical and cultural heritage for more than 700 years and the school helps the people of Kirina preserve and share their cultural heritage and musical traditions. 

The music school offers classes in kora, djembe, balafon, dance and tama.  We introduced language classes in French and English as well as an evening class program where teachers from the public school are coming each week to the music school to give extra lessons in English, French, and Sciences. This program, destined to help compensate the very low success rate at the public school, has became a great asset for the music school as some kids are coming to attend the classes from other villages in the area.  

Through collaborations, we have supported the installation of a well, first solar-powered pump and a cistern, which provides and stores clean water to the village of more than 2,000 people.

Other Ways To Give

Djembe (Hand Drum)

Locally made instrument benefiting a child and village craftsman.

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Provides a locally made n'gony (string instrument), benefiting a child and local craftsman

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Meet our Students


Nouhoum is a 15-year-old student at Ecole de Musique de Kirina, in Mali. He has studied... more


Alou is a 16-year-old young man who studies kora at the music school. He is the grandson... more


Apr 01, 2016


The ngoni or "n'goni" is a string instrument originating in West Africa. Its body is made of wood or calabash with dried animal (often goat) skin stretched over it like a drum. This ngoni is called a "djeli ngoni", played by griots to perform at celebrations and other special occasions to play the traditional songs. more

Life in the Community

For more than 70 generations the Griot inhabitants of this village have been the keepers of African oral tradition. Music is in their blood, and this rich cultural heritage that dates back to the 13th century is alive and well in and the families that make their homes here.

What We're Learning

  • Traditional West-African Music Education

    Following the centuries-old Griot traditions, these classes focus on teaching traditional instruments such as Kora, Balafon, Tama, Djembé, and introduce an approach to musical theory. Classes are also given in dance, chant, English and French.

  • Kora

    The kora is a traditional West African instrument made with a large calabash, which is a type of gourdnative to the area. The kora is the "king" of the instruments in the Griot culture. It traditionally has 21 strings and according to the legend,...

  • Djembe

    The djembé is maybe the most popular West African instrument. The djembé is a native percussion instrument in Kirina as its origins are traditionally located between Guinea (50 km south from Kirina) and Bamako ( 50 km north of Kirina). In the...

  • Dance

    Almost every kid in Kirina could hold their own with professional dancers in western countries. The dance is a natural discipline that every kid learns from his very early age...

  • French & English

    In addition to the music classes, our mission is to help the kids to prepare for their future in other ways. We decided to introduce language classes at the music school after an agreement with the teachers of the public school.

  • Musical History and Theory

    One of the dreams of Mahamadou Diabaté, director of the music school, is to be able to work with the students to transcribe popular local themes to sheet music. This is in paradox to the oral tradition of the Griots, but it is Diabate's bope that...

  • Tama

    The Tama or “Talking Drum” is a traditional percussion instrument very popular all over West Africa. It is traditionally a Griot instrument and it is considered one of the oldest percussion instruments in West Africa. The particularity of this...

  • Dun Dun

    The dun dun is a traditional bass drum very popular in all West Africa that usually accompanies Djembé.

  • Ngoni

    The ngoni or "n'goni" is a string instrument originating in West Africa. Its body is made of wood or calabash with dried animal (often goat) skin stretched over it like a drum. This ngoni is called a "djeli ngoni", played by griots to perform at...

Mahamadou Diabaté
Creative Director and Percussion Teacher

Mahamadou Diabaté is a Malian musician and descendant of a griot family that has played... more

Seydou Dembelé
Head Administrator

Seydou is an English teacher and school administrator in Bamako, Mali. He began working... more

Oumou Mariko
Dance Teacher

Oumou is a singer and a dancer living in Bamako, and has recently been performing and... more

Seydou Koné
Percussion Teacher

Seydou Koné is a master djembé player who lives in a village located 14 km from Kirina.... more

Ladji Diabaté
Kora Teacher

Ladji Diabaté is a renowned kora player and teacher in Mali. He is the brother of Toumani... more

Mountaga Sissoko
Tama & N'goni Teacher

Mountaga Sissoko is a Malian musician born in Bamako in 1966. He is the son of Bazoumana... more

Karim Diabaté
Percussion Leader

Karim Diabaté is a Master "Djembéfola" and leader of Kirina's percussion band that lays... more

Karounga Diabaté
Balafon Teacher

Karounga is the son of Keletigui Diabaté, one of the greatest balafon (traditional... more

Jean Diarrah
French Teacher

French teacher and assistant for the school's recently launched educational support... more

Bagoré Sissoko
Sound Engineer and Editor

Bagoré aka Mande Follo is an artist, musician and sound engineer from Bamako, Mali. He... more