The lead guitarist for the Rail Band from 1971 to 1979 and 1984 on, Djali Madi Tounkara played an important role in the evolution of West African music. Known for his unique guitar tunings, Tounkara has continued to influence the music of his homeland. Tounkara's attempts to attract global attention, however, have left him frustrated. Scheduled to participate in the recording sessions that produced the award-winning album Buena Vista Social Club, he was kept from the sessions when his passport arrived late. After performing with L'Orchestre National 'A' De La Republique Du Mali in the late-'60s, Tounkara joined the Rail Band in 1971. He remained essential to the band's sound until 1979 when he, along with guitarist/vocalist Mory Konte, left to form their own band, L'Orchestre Super Rail Band International. The group recorded one album, Affair Social, in 1980.
Since reuniting with the Rail Band in 1984, Tounkara has remained active with the group, performing every Saturday night at the Buffet Hotel de la Jare. Tounkara has continued to explore a variety of forums for his music. In 1992, he joined with guitarist and president of Mali's musicians union Bouba Sacko and former Rail Band singer Lafia Biabate to record an all-acoustic album, Big String Theory. ~ Craig Harris