Guinean singer Mory Kanté, an influential figure in African and world music, has died, his family said Friday. He was 70.
Kanté brought Guinean, and Mandingo, culture to the world. He was called an ambassador of Afro-pop music. His song “Yeke Yeke,” released in the late ’80s, has been remixed and covered extensively.
“Guinea and the whole world have lost a great personality,” Kante’s son, Balla Kanté, told the Associated Press. “My father was a great personality. We lost a large library today.”
Balla said his father had not been feeling well for quite some time and died in a hospital in the capital, Conakry. He will be tested for COVID-19, his son confirmed.
“He was an elderly man who did a lot and exerted a lot of physical energy,” Balla said.
Born March 29, 1950, in Albadarya, a small town near Kissidougou in Guinea’s southeast, Kanté became known as a distinguished kora player.
He was a member of the Rail Band, formed out of Bamako, Mali, which launched the solo careers of many other musicians including Salif Keita.
Kanté’s first international album, Kourougnègnè, was released in 1981 and the last one, La Guinéenne, in 2012.
Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, said the nation was in mourning.
“Thank you, artist,” he wrote on Twitter, calling Kanté’s career “exceptional.”
Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour said he was dismayed by such a great loss.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.