Each month in 2021, we will be featuring a member of the worldwide Gretsch community as our spotlight “featured player” of the month!
The featured drummer for April is Malick Koly . . .
Malick Koly grew up on three different continents: Africa, Europe, and North America. He was born in Abidjan and is of Guinean and Malian decent. He began to study music at an early age through his mother, a Malian vocalist and World Music Grammy award nominee Awa Sangho, and his father, Souleymane Koly, a Franco-Guinean impresario and playwright. He was primarily exposed to jazz, contemporary music, and African music growing up, in particular, music by John Coltrane, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Hank Jones, and Miles Davis. His father was an avid jazz fan and aficionado. At age twelve, Malick moved to the US to pursue his high school studies in Saint Helena and simultaneously pursue his artistic endeavors in the capital of jazz, New York City. He permanently moved there in 2016 and attended a school for jazz and contemporary music for a brief semester, and then fully partook in his career.
We asked Malick . . .
How old were you when you knew you were interested in becoming a musician?
I was about two years old when I picked up the sticks, and I committed to them when I was 7. I come from an artistic family which enabled tons of support, so there was no doubt in my mind that it was something I could do.
Why did you choose Gretsch?
I first learned about Gretsch at an early age through watching a VHS about the history of the drums. The common thread was that all my heroes and inspirations were part of the Gretsch family. When I was of age and under the tutelage/in the bands of my artistic mentors, I learned and developed a sound that fit with the voice I wanted to emit on the instrument as I believe it to be an extension of my body. So there was no doubt in my mind that Gretsch was my sonic direction.
What Gretsch gear do you currently use?
Right now I own three Gretsch kits, though my main kit is a 1977 4-piece Gretsch kit that was customized by my dear friend and great artist Mizuki Nishiyama. Three ply with die cast hoops.
Which musicians were the biggest influence on you and why?
Souleymane Koly, Wallace Roney, and Miles Davis, because these three individuals to me set the bar high, not only in their own artistry but also conceptually, which opened the door for true reflection as to what it means to grow as a human and in your craft simultaneously.
How did you adjust and stay musical during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Being multicultural served me a great deal. My goal as an artist has always been to reconnect with my West African roots (Guinea, Mali, Côte d’ivoire), and ultimately their handling of the pandemic has allowed me to safely establish myself as one of their native sons and share my works with them. So, fortunately, as they still allow live performances there I’ve been/and will be working on several projects to reinforce that bond and cultivate that side of my musical senses. I was also fortunate to record three albums all in one with a band I work with called Le Deal based in Paris.
You could be featured in 2021 just like Malick. Click to find out how!