A steward of the 800 year-old tradition of the Griot, the storytellers of West Africa, Cheick Hamala shares the oral history, music and song of his culture as it was passed on to him from birth by parent to child. At an early age, Cheick Hamala easily mastered the ngoni, a stringed lute and ancestor to the banjo. He later learned to play the guitar from his uncle, legendary Super Rail Band guitarist Djelimady Tounkara.
At age 12, Cheick Hamala was invited to the National Institute of Arts in Bamako, Mali's Capital, where he studied music, graphic arts, cinema, literature and theatre. He began his international performing career upon graduation, learning from and playing with the full pantheon of Malian musical greats, including Toumani Diabate (a first cousin), Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure and Salif Keita to name but a few.
Upon coming to the US, Cheick Hamala was intrigued by the resemblance between his beloved ngoni and the American banjo, even sharing tunings and picking styles. He has since learned to play the banjo at a virtuosic level, including collaborations with Bela Fleck and Bob Carlin.