The Many Sides of Rokia Traore

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Monday July 02, 2012

From The Quietus

LIVE REPORT: Rokia Traoré
BY:Andy Thomas

Sing – Dance – Dream. After seeing the many sides of Rokia Traoré at the WOMAD festival, it seemed fitting that this would be the title chosen for three very different London performances from this most versatile of Mali’s female singer songwriters.

Born into the Bambara ethnic group, her trajectory to the world stage was an unusual one for a West African female singer. The daughter of a diplomat, Traoré travelled from Algeria to France with her parents, soaking up influences as an intensely curious teenager. While her parents were away in Brussels, she studied music at Lycée Français Liberté in Bamako. It was here that she honed her craft, merging traditional Malian music with the sounds she had heard on her travels. A Malian woman with a guitar is not a usual sight in this musical rich country, which was perhaps what caught the attention of the great blues man Ali Farka Touré, who helped guide Rokia through her first LP Mouneïssa in 1997. This was to open the ears of the world music scene to the next in a line of acclaimed Malian female singers, such as Oumou Sangare, although Traoré has always been keen to stress that she is not a traditional Malian singer. ‘I respect what [traditional praise-singers] do, but I’ve never wanted to compete with them. I don’t have their traditional training and background. I’m more interested in inventing a new way of singing,’ she told the Daily Telegraph back in 2004.

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