Griot, pop star, U.N. ambassador, Mande pop pioneer ... Mory Kante has played a lot of roles in his life. Born into a family of griots in 1950, Kante went through all the traditional training as a young man -- including a difficult initiation at the age of 15. He was then sent to Bamako to live with an aunt, and while there, the young balafon player came upon Cuban mambo, Congolese rumba, and soul and funk music -- all of which would inspire him throughout his career as a musician. In 1971 Kante was invited to join the guiding light of Malian music at the time, the Rail Band. When Salif Keita left the band in 1973, Kante took over, honing his chops and channeling his hero James Brown until he finally went solo in 1978, settling in Abidjan. In the late '80s, Kante moved to Paris and quickly became part of that city's sizzling world music scene.