In 2007, Stone spent three months in Mali, West Africa studying with kora and n’goni players, making field recordings, and exploring the banjo’s African roots. He sat in with Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra and played with griots, buskers and elders—under baobab trees, at the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers, and as part of an all-night ceremony in the Dogon’s sandstone cliffs. He returned home to make the Juno award-winning album, Africa to Appalachia, an album of recycled and reimagined traditional songs in collaboration with Mansa Sissoko.

Four years before setting foot on Malian soil, Stone met Sissoko, a griot singer, storyteller and kora player from Bamako. “Without a common language, we turned to music,” Stone recalls of their first meeting. “The heart-to-heart connection was immediate and we knew a collaboration was in store.” Sissoko is a walking encyclopedia of Malian songs. “Griots are the bloodline of society,” Sissoko explains. “We share our culture and history through music and carefully chosen words.”

In Bamako, Stone spent time with Mali’s premiere ngoni pioneer, Bassekou Kouyate, learning court music as old as the twelfth 12th century. One such song, “Bamaneyake,” praises N’dji Diarra, the once-king of Bambougo who ordered a canal to be dug from the Niger River to his village so his wife could see hippos from her window. Stone hiked the Dogon Country, a millennia-old natural escarpment in the north. He made field recordings and discovered the juru keleni, a one-string spiked lute—one of the banjo’s many ancestors. Stone was particularly moved by the participatory nature of the music in Mali—how it is woven into daily life and ritual celebrations.

Stone toured Africa to Appalachia for three years with Mansa Sissoko, Yacouba Sissoko, Casey Driessen, Grant Gordy and others. The project was featured on NPR All Things Considered, BBC Television and CBC Radio. They played hundreds of shows at places like the Lotus Festival, Edmonton Folk Festival, Chicago World Music Festival, Celtic Connections and more.


"That rare example of a musical exploration going perfectly, a cultural summit that sounds vibrant and seamless for all the right reasons."


"There's something utterly enchanting about this collaboration."


"A brilliant synthesis of music from two different cultures."