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Mourners gather for funeral of Guinean singer Mory Kante

Hundreds of people gathered to mourn the death of Guinean singer Mory Kante in his native country’s capital Conakry on Tuesday, to the sound of keening and traditional musical laments.

Kante, who helped introduce African music to a world audience in the 1980s, died in Conakry on Friday after at age 70 after succumbing to untreated health problems.

Restrictions related to the global coronavirus pandemic had prevented him from travelling abroad to seek medical help.

Born into a celebrated family of “griots” — traditional singer-poets — Kante is best known for his dance song “Yeke Yeke,” which was a huge hit in Africa before becoming a No. 1 in several European countries in 1988.

At a pre-burial ceremony on the grounds of a Conakry hospital on Tuesday, two women collapsed in tears as the musician’s coffin, which was draped in the Guinean flag, was laid inside a tent.

Some 200 people — relatives, friends and government officials — attended the ceremony, where Mandingo griots sang laments accompanied by kora and balofon music.

Hundreds more mourners stood outside the hospital grounds, and followed the cortege as it made its way to a nearby cemetary.

A large contingent of Kante’s family, including many of his 14 children, were unable to attend the funeral because of coronavirus restrictions.

“They are all stuck in Paris, in Ivory Coast, in Mali, and even in the United States,” said Kader Yomba, one of the musician’s sons, who managed to attend the funeral.

“It’s sad and a shame,” he added.

Guinea is one of the African countries that has been worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities having recorded over 3,300 cases to date, with 20 fatalities.

It has closed its borders in a bid to curb infections.

Guinea’s culture minister, Sanoussi Bantama Sow, promised that a more fitting ceremony would be held for Kante after the pandemic ebbs.

Kante’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes from musicians and dignitaries across the world.

Guinean President Alpha Conde tweeted on Friday that “African culture is in mourning”.

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