Rokia Traoré

cd cover Rokia Traoré manages quite effortlessly to weave an intricate and delicate fusion of traditional Malian and African musical styles on Wanita, her second recording. Her arrangements, which feature traditional Malian musical instruments alongside an occasional electric bass, are precise, well-crafted, and perfectly balanced. I am not easily impressed by "fusions" of African styles yet Wanita delivers where others fail. Upon first listen one is immediately drawn to the subtle and ethereal qualities of her voice, underscored by some fine musicianship and discreet arrangements of the acoustic instruments. The ngoni and balafon players in particular are first rate and her backing vocalists' harmonies are what Malian music is all about.

Wanita has a wonderful authenticity, a genuine and wide embrace that is identifiably Traoré's own creation. The music is part Malinké, part Bambara, but wholly Malian, for Rokia Traoré embraces the styles of her homeland with a mature and minimalist approach, unencumbered by the clutter and over-production that have earmarked too much contemporary music from West Africa. Wanita is a very personal recording and one is easily drawn into songs with themes that touch upon polygamy and female emancipation as with the stand-out number "Mouso niyalén" ("The place of men is with their first wife so that they may grow old together). This very rewarding CD will stamp Traoré's authority as the new diva on the Malian scene. - Graeme Counsel

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