Thursday, May 1, 2008

About Music - Rokia Traore

Rokia Traoré is a singer/songwriter/guitarist 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, despite coming from a privileged background.

As Rokia's father was a diplomat, her family spent a lot of time in different countries while Rokia 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 Rokia stayed at the lycée in Bamako while her parents were in Brussels and there she developed her voice and first performed in public.

When she became a professional musician at the age of 22, she was definitely more interested in being a pop singer than a traditional griot. And though she combines acoustic guitar with the traditional (ngoni and balaba) and the sensibilities of her Bamana people, her guitar-driven compositions have often led to comparisons with Tracy Chapman and other singer/songwriters.

Traore made her singing debut on Malian television in the late '90s, and was acclaimed "African Discovery of the Year" by Radio France International in 1997. She released her first album, Mouneissa 1n 1998, and followed up with Wanita in 2000. Both of these albums showcased her new African pop sound and won her worldwide attention. She also wowed audiences in 2000 with her performance at England's prestigious WOMAD festival.

In 2003, Traore released Bowmboï, her most mature work to date. She continues to perform and record, touring Europe and North America and collaborating with such notable artists as the Kronos Quartet. Visit her website at

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