Malian singer Rokia Traore is a maverick singer/songwriter that's managed to turn her homeland's sometimes conservative music scene on its ear -- and emerged as one of Mali's freshest new voices in the process.
Traore is the daughter of a Malian diplomat, and grew up all over the world -- getting an early exposure to a diverse cross-section of music in the process. 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. Tom Pryor
Courtesy Calabash Music