Mamadou was a main member of Ali Farka Toure's band and his protege.
Mamadou Kelly was born in N’Betou near Niafunke in the Timbuktu region of Northern Mali. As a teenager he began working on local farms but always loved music. He was encouraged by Issa Coulibaly who helped him buy his first instrument, a djourkel or monochord, the traditional Fulani/Peuhl single-stringed instrument. When the late Fatoma Coulibaly, an N’Betou guitarist who had been living in the Ivory Coast, returned to N’Betou, he invited Kelly to play with him. Together they performed at weddings, baptisms, national festivals and other parties. In 1985 Kelly began to study the guitar with Coulibaly and within a year he had ventured to Niafunké to join the Ali Farka Touré group "ASCO". In 1986, he began to perform with "ASCO" on the same stages in Bamako as well known artists like Nahawa Doumbia and Zoumana Terreta. In 1987 Kelly made his first trip outside of Mali.
By 1992, Mamadou Kelly had quit working on farms to follow his dream of being a musician. By 2003 he was accompanying Ali Farka Toure at the Folk Live Festival in Washington DC. He then was asked by Toure’s colleague Afel Bocoum to be the lead guitarist in his band, "Alkibar". Kelly performed in 2005-2006 at the Festival au Desert in Timbuktu and in 2008 at the Festival sur le Niger in Segou Mali. In 2010 Kelly performed with Afel Bocoum at the Afrika Festival in Hertme, Netherlands. In 2011 they crisscrossed the US and Canada along with Habib Koite as part of the Acoustic Africa concert series. In September 2012 they performed in France as part of Africa Express. In 2013 following the political crisis in Mali, Kelly participated in the Caravan for Peace Tour in the USA and Europe.
Mamadou Kelly recorded his first album, "Adibar" (2013-CLE007) in Paul Chandler’s Bamako studio for the Clermont Music label. That album was followed by Kelly’s second, “Djamila”(2015-CLE012) recorded at Area 52 Studios in Saugerties NY and was named a Top of the World selection by the British magazine, Songlines. During Kelly’s 2016 North American tour he stopped in to the Area 52 Studios to record his third album and was joined by some American musicians including five-time Grammy Award winner Cindy Cashdollar, avant garde percussionist Susie Ibarra, bass master Jacob Silver and brilliant guitarist Dan Littleton. That album also received rave notices.
Mamadou Kelly hopes to present authentic Malian music all around the world. He is a mentor to young musicians inspiring them to develop their own their extraordinary musical careers.
Musician, writer, composer, arranger, and multiple instrumentalist, Kelly is a member of the Bureau Malien Droits d’Auteurs BUMDA and SACEM. In addition to music, Kelly is an avid football fan.