Salifou Malima Kone was born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso into the renowned Kone family of West Africa. In Burkina Faso, a country the size of Colorado, with 17 million people speaking 68 languages, culture is often based on music, dance, art and agriculture. Throughout childhood, Salifou’s parents instilled in him a deep respect for their culture. Salifou and his family come from the ancient Jeli (griot) music tradition of the Bwaba people, dating back to the Mali/Manding Empire. Jeli have been historically known as the oral libraries, passing the rich stories of African ancestry generation to generation through song, music, and dance.
Both of Salifou’s grandfathers were masters of multiple traditional instruments and song. His study of music began at the age of two and by the time he was just five years old, he already played bala (xylophone), jembe (drum), and kora (21-string African harp) and performed with his father and uncles. Early in his childhood, Salifou was inspired by older cousins, who were touring the world with Les Petits Chanteurs, a children’s music ensemble, created by Thomas Sankara, the former President of Burkina Faso. Salifou found mentorship in his cousin Kalifa, who was a member of the ensemble, and who shared much of his talent and knowledge of twelve instruments with him. When he was twelve, Salifou joined another youth ensemble, Maison Des Jeunes du Burkina, touring Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, France, Monaco, United Kingdom and Germany. Just two years later, he became a jembe soloist in the Burkina Faso National Ballet, touring Europe for several years. In 1994, Salifou was selected as the face of SIAO, (Salon International de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou) appearing on all television promotional commercials for its international art and music festival.
Filmmaker and founder of the African Family Film Foundation, Taale Laafi Rosellini, spent nearly two decades with the Kone family in Burkina Faso, documenting their lives and their music. The footage and audiotape recordings resulted in a feature documentary, Great Great Great Grandparent’s Music. Salifou made his debut in film during the last year of cinematography and appears in several quite memorable scenes: one where mother Dohan sings a lullaby to him, and others where Salifou is playing jembe and bala at age two. The film had its world premiere in 1997 at FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou), the biggest Black film festival in the world. It also received the Prix Spécial, awarded by Ousmane Sembene, internationally acclaimed author and filmmaker. The film then went on to be premiered in the US at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC and several other film festivals on the west coast. It was nominated for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival, the biggest Black film festival in the United States. (To learn more about the film, please visit www.africanfamily.org)
In 2000, Salifou came to the United States to visit his brother and sister. He spent three months touring the west coast with the documentary screenings and teaching dance and music workshops with them. Salifou returned to the US in 2002 and began attending college and teaching music in California and throughout the country. Along with his sister Mandjou, he has taught music at; UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Oregon State University in Eugene, University of Victoria in Canada, Seattle World Rhythm Festival and Mexico City.
Salifou established Djelia Rhythms in 2007 to bring the culture and musical traditions of his family to students and audiences nationwide. Djelia means “the way of the Jeli” and encompasses the scope of knowledge Salifou shares. Djelia Rhythms offers performance, university residencies, workshops for groups and schools, weekly classes, private lessons, instrument repair and sales, and the Africa Music and Dance Tour to Burkina Faso and Mali.
To learn more about Salifou and his original World music, visit www.malimakone.com.