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First Listen: Rokia Traoré, 'Beautiful Africa'

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Monday September 16, 2013

From NPR

First Listen: Rokia Traoré, ‘Beautiful Africa’
By: Anastasia Tsioulcas

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia Traoré has always been a sophisticate. She grew up as the daughter of a diplomat who was posted in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Her most recent stage project was Desdemona, a critically acclaimed theater piece riffing on Shakespeare’s Othello, done in collaboration with novelist Toni Morrison and renowned theater director Peter Sellars and mounted at London’s Barbican, in Vienna and at Lincoln Center.

Don’t think that Traoré limits herself to the high-minded, though. She calls Beautiful Africa a rock album — but this is rock filtered through a Malian prism. The West African ngoni lute figures as prominently as the electric guitars; her rhythms boast a distinctly African sway. But she also enlisted John Parish, who’s worked with PJ Harvey, Eels and Sparklehorse, as her producer for Beautiful Africa, and you can hear his influence in the grooving, driving, rushing currents that swirl under Traoré‘s honeyed voice. It’s an inspired idea, and there may not be an artist better equipped to pull off the combination with such ease and grace. Beautiful Africa is just as smart and lovely as its creator.

To read more and to listen to the full album before it’s released click here