News, reviews and commentary on afrobeat and related music from Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rokia Traore's Contemporary Malian Music

By Robert Fox

The AfroFunk Music Forum has recently taken a bit of an intermission while we worked out some technical and organizational challenges. However, we’re back on track and will be posting here daily. I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Today I noticed that Afropop Worldwide has a nice website devoted to the innovative Malian singer and composer Rokia Traore. You can check out the site for song samples from her last two albums, or purchase tracks. Marushka of Mondomix gives her 2003 album Bowmoi the highest level of praise:
A truly accomplished work on a personal level and an important one for Malian music in general…Incorporating polyphonic singing (‘Manian’), electronic atmospheres and the contemporary strings of the Kronos Quartet, a particularly successful encounter in the title track, with the genuinely acoustic Malian sound of the n’goni, balafon and percussion, Rokia Traoré’s talents as composer and arranger are here fully revealed. As are those of a poetic, sensitive and enlightened lyricist…Far from the clichés of ‘African music’ too often found today, this is an album of rare beauty and originality.
The daughter of diplomats, Traore grew up all around the world and while her music is rooted in traditional Malian forms, she incorporates many different styles into a unique fusion. From All Music Guide:
Traore's musical style, however, has little in common with the griottes. Unlike their signature wailing sound, her voice is smooth and gentle, and her arrangements, while somewhat minimalist, make use of both traditional instruments like the balafon, n'goni, and kora, as well as acoustic guitar and electric bass. That sound is evident on her debut release, Mouneissa, from 1998, but most evident on her 2000 release, Wanita. For Wanita, Traore wrote and arranged the entire album, seizing the controls from a male engineer who believed that a young girl was incapable of handling the production of an album. The result shows a deeply personal and individual style which reflects both innovation and tradition.
Traore herself describes her music as “Malian Contemporary Music” on her very elegant website. The site includes some excellent and moving live concert video footage that I’m sure you’ll want to take a look at.

Stay tuned for more reviews, commentary and news about Afrobeat and related music from the AfroFunk Music Forum!

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