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Rokia Traoré Live at the Barbican

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Saturday June 23, 2012

From The Upcoming

Concert review: Rokia Traoré brings the sounds of Africa to the Barbican
By: Freddy Powys

If Mali’s Rokia Traoré weren’t so obviously selfless and likeable, one might think that she is trying to take over the Barbican for good. This week alone sees her play three shows in the cultural complex, all with different themes (Damou, Donguili and Donke, meaning “Dream”, “Sing” and “Dance” respectively) and chock full of new, specially-commissioned material followed by a starring role in the venue’s production of Toni Morrison’s Desdemonaas an encore.

Rokia Traoré onstage at the Barbican Centre on 23rd June 2012. Photo: Sherinne Abdou
The woman’s talents clearly have no end and the Friday night Donguili,show (22nd June 2012) was a chance to explore the rich tapestry of African art that she embodies alongside members of her Bridge Foundation for the promotion of musical awareness.

Traoré’s voice was wisely pushed to the forefront of the mix, soaring above her angelic backing singers with whom she occasionally trades places. When she addressed the crowd – introducing the songs in halting English and touching on the troubles in northern Mali that prevented several of her students from participating in the concert as planned – her voice was clipped and hoarse, but became imbued with tremendous feeling once the music kicked in, powerful without being overbearing. The acoustics of the Barbican Hall suited the arrangements perfectly; most of the material was written and rehearsed with it in mind.

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