Rokia Traoré: Exile Blues

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Thursday April 28, 2016

From PopMatters

Rokia Traoré: Né So
Exile Blues
By: George de Stefano

With Né So (‘home’ in Mali’s Bambara language), Traoré, 42, has made something beautiful and moving from the traumas of war and her personal crises. To paraphrase Chinua Achebe and William Butler Yeats, things fell apart, but Traoré’s center’“her artistry and her commitment to it’“did hold.

Like her previous album, Beautiful Africa (2013), her latest has been produced by John Parish, who also plays guitar and drums on several tracks. Traoré wrote 10 of the 11 songs (the exception being Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’), rehearsed them in Bamako, and then recorded in Brussels and Bristol with a band that included, with Parish and the Italian guitarist Stefano Pilia, musicians she recruited from throughout West Africa. ‘I didn’t want an all-Malian band,’ she says. ‘I need variety; I need a mix of cultures around me’.

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