@ Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall
13 November 2013
Click an image to enlarge.
Rokia Traoré is a singer/songwriter/guitarist /dancer from
Mali. In many parts of West Africa, professional musicians are often
from a certain lowly caste called the ‘griots’. However,
Traoré’s family are from the Bamana ethnic group who
do not observe this restriction so strictly. Therefore when Rokia
was young she was able to sing with others at wedding celebrations
and other social gatherings.
As Traoré’s father was a diplomat, her family spent
a lot of time in different countries while Traoré was growing
up. She came into contact with many local and international styles
of music, although her parents were reluctant for her to become
a musician. When she was a bit older Traoré stayed at the
lycée in Bamako while her parents were in Brussels and there
she developed her voice and first performed in public.
In 1997 she met Ali Farka Toure who gave her quite a lot of guidance
and then in 1998 she recorded her first album, “Mouneïssa.”
The tracks on the album “Wanita” (released in 2000)
are all in Bamanan except ‘Château de sable’,
which is in French. Her lyrics cover issues like respect, traditions
and relationships. She is joined by Boubacar Traoré on the
track ‘Mancipera’. Coco Mbassi provide the backing vocals
on several tracks and Toumani Diabaté plays kora. Hauntingly
beautiful gentle tracks make this a real treasure trove.
The hallmark of Traoré’s music is trance-like rhythms,
in contrast to many of the other women musicians from Mali like
Kandia Kouyate. The accompanying instruments Traore chooses are
unique as they are traditional like the balafon (giant wooden xylophone)
and the tiny n’goni, which are not normally heard together.
She also uses kora and calabash percussion. Traore is very well
known internationally as she has performed with her band in many
festivals and numerous venues in USA and London including the Barbican.
She has been a finalist for several awards and won the Kora All
Africa Music Award for Most Promising Female in 2001. In 2009 she
won ‘Best Artist’ in the Songlines Music Awards and
was presented with the trophy after her performance at WOMAD. On
stage she is truly compelling with her voice, guitar and dancing.
Rokia Traoré has been compared to Tracy Chapman, Enya, Carly
Simon, Björk, Joan Baez, and Sinead O’Connor; however,
she has transcended all such comparisons with her inventive and
reverent blend of traditional and contemporary recordings and live
performances. She has firmly established her place as a major name
in contemporary African music.