is a singer/songwriter/guitarist /dancer from Mali.
many parts of West Africa, professional musicians are
often from a certain lowly caste called the 'griots'. However,
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.
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 2000's Wanita
CD 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 does the backing vocals on several tracks and Toumani
Diabaté plays kora. Hauntingly beautiful gentle tracks
make this a real treasure trove. The hallmark of Rokia's music
is trance-like rhythms, in contrast to many of the other
women musicians from Mali
accompanying instruments Traore
are unique as they are traditional like the balafon (giant wooden
xylophone) and the tiny n'goni, which are not normally heard
She also uses
kora and calabash percussion. Rokia
is very well known internationally as she has performed with
her band in many festivals
and also at 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.