Yacouba Moumouni is a singer, flautist, and leader of the beloved jazz-ethnic band Mamar Kassey. Moumouni is the cultural ambassador of Niger and is probably the best known Nigerien musician outside the country.
Born in 1966 in a small sahel town some 125 miles from Niamey, Moumouni (born: Yacouba Moumouni Alzouna) herded cattle with his family until his father died when he when he was 10. Falling out with his brother, he ran away to the capital, where he lived on the street for two years until his talent attracted the attention of a music teacher, and he was taken on as an apprentice. Mastering the traditional flute, he joined the Ballet National of Niger and then formed Mamar Kassey, an eight man group featuring Moumouni and guitarist Abdallah Alhassane. Together they have toured West Africa, Europe, and the United States, and have become the most popular musical group in Niger.
With his melodic Fulani flute playing and soft-spoken vocals in the Songhai or Peul language, Moumouni has helped to preserve the musical traditions of Niger. He had his first break after meeting vocalist Absatou Dante, the sister of Dante Alhassane , the director Ballet National du Niger, in 1979. For the next seven years, Dante exposed him to the musical traditions of Niger and taught him the intricacies of Nigerian flute playing. After playing with Harouna Marounfa's band, in 1986 Yacouba accepted an invitation to join traditional band Zongo. Together with the group, he toured and performed in Korea, Libya, Algeria, and West Africa.
Transferring to Orchestre Takeda, the house band at the musical academy Centre de Formation et de Promotion Musicale (CFPM), in 1990, Yacouba was mentored by the group's director and lead guitarist, Abdoulaye Alhassane. He remained with the band for five years. Together with other CFPM musicians, including Ahlassane, Yacouba formed Mamar Kassey in 1995. The band's debut album, Alatoumi, released in 1999 on the French Daqui label, was followed by Denke-Denke.
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