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Rokia Traore Expresses Her Love For Her Home

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Friday March 29, 2013

From The Guardian

Rokia Traoré: ‘I wanted to keep positive and sing about how much I love Africa’
By: Caspar Llewellyn Smith

Before meeting Rokia Traoré, I had her pigeonholed as a very modern sort of artist, most comfortable traversing the globe just as she traverses, or elides, different genres. The daughter of a Malian diplomat, she once told another interviewer that her favourite place growing up was always the airport – “this middle point between two places” – while on Pitchfork she has been hailed “as one of the world’s great synthesisers, combining the rhythms and traditions of diverse cultures from Africa and Europe into a complex sound that only she could create”.

The last time I saw her was at the Africa Express shows across the UK last summer, later I spoke to her on the phone when she was announced as the first act for this year’s Glastonbury. (She’ll also headline the Womad festival.) Now when we meet it’s in Brussels, at the studios of RTBF, the Belgian BBC. But in the course of the hour that we speak, it becomes apparent that I’ve got her wrong; rather than a global soul, she’s a more complicated character than that bland epithet might imply.

In fact, on the title track of her new album, Beautiful Africa, she describes herself as an “Afro-progressiste” – an “Afro-progressive” – but that term covers a lot of ground. The song addresses the political turmoil in Côte d’Ivoire, in the Congo and in Guinea, as well as, and especially, in her native Mali. It was the last song to be written for the record, finished in July last year, when Traoré was at her lowest ebb following a series of shows in London, and at a point when the crisis in her country was worsening.

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