Rokia Traoré

Hailed as West Africa’s most exciting new talent, the singer/songwriter/guitarist from Mali, Rokia Traoré, with her eight-piece band, employs traditional song forms, her extraordinary voice, and instruments of Mali (n’goni, balafon, and kora), to express a bold, fresh outlook. In her songs of respect, traditions, and relationships, Traoré’s music and nuanced vocals are informed by her background in the Bamana people of the Upper Niger, and by her childhood travels as a diplomat’s daughter. She draws, then, from a broad palette of West African traditional and popular styles. As she has put it: “Tonalities that are foreign to my language call out to me, suggesting surprising melodies. Sometimes I pretend I’m a rocker singing in Bamanan! What’s important to me is to choose the right modulation with respect to the intensity of the note while preserving its delicacy, which gives all the colour to my singing.” Her rise to prominence has been rapid. In 1997, Ali Farka Toure heard her, and offered her guidance. In 1998 she recorded her first album, Mouneïssa, and by 2001 was awarded the Kora All Africa Music Award for Most Promising Female musician.

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