Kanté died in hospital on Friday in the capital, Conakry, aged 70, his son Balla Kanté told the AFP news agency.
His death was the result of untreated health problems, he said.
« He suffered from chronic illnesses and often travelled to France for treatment but that was no longer possible with the coronavirus, » he added.
« We saw his condition deteriorate rapidly, but I was still surprised because he’d been through much worse times before. »
Born in a famous family of « griots » – West African musicians and storytellers – he had been nicknamed « the electronic griot », and was known as a distinguished player of kora – a West African harp.
His song Yéké Yéké became a huge hit in the late 1980s and was widely remixed.
Tributes were paid by fellow musicians on Friday, including Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour who said he felt a huge void on learning of Kanté’s death and called the late singer « a baobab of African culture ».
Kanté is the latest prominent African musician to pass away, after the recent deaths of Manu Dibango, Tony Allen and Idir.