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Rokia Traoré

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, 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 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.  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.

On Rokia's 10-track album Bowmboi (2003), several of the songs discuss the vital topic of childhood, including the two tracks on which she is joined by the Kronos Quartet. Her style is definitely unique. Also listen out for her distinctive voice on a Senerap band's album: Daara J's Boomerang. Together and separately Rokia and Daara J produce a winning sound for today's world - it can't be sheer coincidence that both Rokia and Daara J won awards in the 2004 BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.
A DVD featuring Rokia's 2004 concert at La Cigale in Paris plus extras is now available too.
In 2006 Rokia performed in an ambitious work to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birthday in which Mozart was depicted as a griot in the 13th century. On another stage she was with Dianne Reeves and Fontella Bass in the play 'Billie and Me' (about the life of Billie Holiday).
Tchanantche is the title of Rokia's different-sounding album release of 2008 which covers topics such as
illegal immigration. She composed all the songs except 'The Man I Love' which is a Billie Holiday classic. She went on a busy touring schedule to present the album. Check out Rokia’s detailed web site which has stunning photos and her very busy concert schedule: