Twins," Assane and Ousseynou Kouyate, come from a long line of
"djialies" (jalis), historians, genealogists, storytellers, and keepers
of cultural traditions from the Mendeng people of Mali. While the
Kouyate twins were born in the country of Mali, they grew up in
Senegal, so their style of music and dance exhibits cultural elements
of Wolof dance and music as well.
Assane and Ousseynou performed with the National Ballet
of Senegal and other Africa-based companies until moving to the United
States in 1997. Since then, they developed their own company, Ballet Jali Diabate, which
has had members in Hawaii and California, and frequent guest performers
from Africa. They recently renamed their group Djialy Kunda Kouyate,
and now perform as a large musical ensemble doing concerts, as well
dance performances and educational programs.
The Twins appeared in People Like Me 2001: Dancing at the Crossroads, and in People Like Me 2005: Itís all Relative!
In these performances, they carry on their family tradition of praise
singing, storytelling, and Malian and Senegalese dance, accompanied by
a musical ensemble which includes the African harp/lute known as the kora, a wooden xylophone with resonators known as the balafon, and the djembe, a single-headed large vase drum played by hand.