“An album full of traditional West African grooves and contemporary Afropop filtered through the grit of New York.” – WNYC’s Soundcheck
“African music in America at its very finest! An all-star group.” – NPR’s Afropop Worldwide
“If you enjoy the traditional sounds of West African music, then you’ll fall in love with Benyoro.” – Ebony
“Bright, buoyant, and inspired” – Wondering Sound
In the Bamana language of Mali, Benyoro means meeting place, and that’s exactly what this group is. It’s about the meeting of traditional and modern instruments, Malian and American musicians, centuries-old songs and modern arrangements. The band’s unique sound packs dance floors wherever they go, and originates in a deep love for the music of Malian jelis (praise musicians) combined with a strong desire to modernize it. In Benyoro’s music, the sonorous, stately melodies of traditional jeliya (praise-singing) are sped up and reconfigured into infectious grooves, but even in the midst of all the movement, the reflective core of the music remains. With this meeting of meditative tradition and raucous dance music, Benyoro is a celebration of the communal and universal nature of West African music.
Benyoro has performed at numerous venues and festivals including Manifestivus, the U.N. General Assembly, Brooklyn Bowl, Wesleyan University, City Winery, Joe’s Pub, Barbès, Rockwood Music Hall, Cameo Gallery, Sullivan Hall, and Shrine. In the process, they have shared billing with artists such as Steel Pulse, Marcus Miller, Diblo Dibala, Toubab Krewe, Jali Cissokho and Kaira Ba, Zongo Junction, and Barika. Their self-titled debut album was released in July 2014.
Meet the band:
Yacouba hails from the culturally rich village of Kita, Mali. He comes from a jeli family, and began learning kora from his grandfather at the age of 12. After attending the National Institute of the Arts, Yacouba performed internationally with artists including Kandia Kouyaté, Ami Koita, and Hadja Soumano before moving to the U.S. Since arriving in the States, Yacouba has won over U.S. audiences with his warm personality, deep knowledge of the jeli tradition, and world-class musicianship. Besides contributing elegant accompaniments and blazing solos to Benyoro, Yacouba has also performed and recorded with Paul Simon, Regina Carter, Baaba Maal, and Roberto Fonseca. He’s also been known to pal around with Dave Chappelle on occasion. Ask him about it!
Growing up between the rural quietude of Northern California and the urban bustle of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sam was exposed to a broad range of music from a young age. Picking up the guitar at 10, he spent his teenage years performing in jazz bands and practicing with records by Ali Farka Touré and Kanda Bongo Man. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Sam lived in Bamako, Mali, where he performed weekly with Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra, learned the djelingoni, and studied with legendary guitarist Djelimady Tounkara. Sam’s playing connects the dots between deep jeli tradition, jazz, and rock, and his electrifying exchanges with Yacouba are a hallmark of Benyoro’s shows. Besides his work with Benyoro, Sam has performed and recorded with Toubab Krewe, Kasse Mady Diabaté, Dayna Stephens, Lionel Loueke, and Wil Blades. Fun fact: He has an MA in Ethnomusicology. Yes, that’s a real field of study.
Originally from the island of Martinique, Patrice has traveled extensively, providing the low end for an astounding array of artists including Angelique Kidjo, Yosvany Terry, Josh Roseman, Peter Apfelbaum, Bobby Previte, Chris Berry, and even Amy Winehouse. With his warm tone and unshakeable rhythmic feel, Patrice is one half of the reason people can’t stop dancing at Benyoro shows. He also speaks fluent German, but no one really knows why.
Hailing from an exotic land known as Wisconsin, Andy has played a multitude of styles, including jazz, rock, and folk. However, it is his decade-plus total immersion in the music of Mali and Guinea that has most defined his musical personality. Andy has performed with artists including Sekouba Bambino, Mandingo Ambassadors, Mory Djeli Kouyaté, and Oumou Dioubaté. Andy’s drumming combines razor-sharp precision with raw energy, all executed with an impeccable rhythmic feel. Along with Patrice, he forms the core of the band that keeps audiences dancing non-stop. As if that weren’t enough, Andy brings the same detailed musicianship to the bala, and the results are nothing short of mesmerizing.
From the busy river city of Mopti, Mali, Idrissa learned to play taman around the same time that he learned to walk. After spending his childhood performing at the street parties that accompany weddings, baptisms, and other events, Idrissa landed in New York, where he quickly began making waves playing with artists such as Balla Kouyaté and Rachel Brown. Idrissa is a ball of fire onstage, whether laying down grooves or soloing at spitfire velocity. As one colleague aptly put it: “That boy’s a problem!”
Originally from New Rochelle, New York, Luke has gained notoriety as the percussionist and driving force behind the Malian/rock/country band Toubab Krewe. Benyoro gives Luke ample room to showcase his staggering prowess on the djembe, the product of studies with top djembe players like Petit Adama Diarra. However, Luke is also a colorist, using his arsenal of karignan (metal scraper), conga, and krin (log drum) to add diverse atmospheres and textures to a number of Benyoro songs. He’s also the one member of the band you should talk to if you need to improve your fantasy basketball skills.