Diabate's music belongs to the griot tradition, a word used to describe a member of a class of poets, historians, musicians and storytellers who maintain and pass on the oral history of West Africa. It is the combination of this deeply cultural practice and contemporary experimentation that makes Diabate's music a genre unto itself, and has led him to win a GRAMMY award and share the stage with the likes of Bela Fleck and Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band.
His music embraces the panoply of sound he discovered in America, taking him beyond the traditional trio of griot instruments: the n’goni, kora (gourd harp), andbalafon (wooden xylophone). He has long explored the connection between America’s traditions and his own griot roots. Yet while many American musicians have traveled to West Africa or picked up the n’goni—thanks in part to Diabate’s introductions and instruction—few African musicians have explored the possibilities of the banjo as extensively as Diabate.