Rokia Traoré - Wanita

Posted By MiOd On Monday, January 27, 2014 Under
Wanita is a mild quantum leap from Traoré's debut, Mouneïssa. The style she cultivated on her debut -- a glorious mix of the singer/songwriter with the rootsy, acoustic instruments of her native Mali -- is refined here, and she approaches everything with more confidence. She's very much a rarity in African terms, a female singer/songwriter, and one whose lyrics are very progressive, dealing with the rights of women in a patriarchal society. But she's representative of a new generation that has brought forth a lot of professional women, for whom she's become a figurehead. She lauds hard work, her people, and the freedom to love. Her own acoustic guitar work might be relatively simple, but the arrangements of her band fill out the sound wonderfully, especially the large, xylophone-like balafon and the n'goni, a kind of lute. By keeping this very Malian, Traoré ensures her music remains quite authentic, and speaks to her own people, rather than any sellout to Western values. At the same time, it's very appealing and rich on its own terms, her lulling voice a far cry from the stridency of many Malian female Wassoulou singers, something Western ears can accept quite readily -- a kind of African Joni Mitchell, but with a more acute social conscience. Hers is a talent that's beginning to find full bloom with this record, fulfilling the promise of her earlier disc, and proving that the ground she broke before is a very fertile furrow indeed. Wanita establishes her at the head of a genre, not merely by virtue of doing it first, but by the sheer talent as a writer and singer which she brings to it.

When Rokia Traore turned to non-Malian vocal styles on Wanita, she didn't opt for an obvious Western approach like fellow West African diva Angelique Kidjo, who steeps her songs in funk. Instead, Traore's multilayered singing has the delicate complexity of Zap Mama alumnus Sally Nyolo's Tribu plus the gentility of chamber music. Instrumentation hews to the traditional arsenal of her country's griot troubadours, though with a modern edge. Rokia contributes acoustic guitar to a solid ensemble of balafon marimba, ngoni ba four-string guitar, djemba hand drum, electric bass, and kora harp from whirlwind Toumani Diabate. "Souba," based none too obviously on an Indian raga, shows her willingness to stretch boundaries in unexpected directions while the title track lingers on lush harmonies seldom heard in African pop. The hushed atmosphere of her performances may lack the raw soulfulness of Mali's best-known female vocalist, Oumou Sangare, but Traore's melodic hooks and quiet acrobatics prove the truth of the old adage that a whisper can be more dramatic than a shout.

01. Kanan Neni
02. Mouso Niyalen
03. Souba
04. Yere Uolo
05. N'Gotolen
06. Wanita
07. Chateau De Sable
08. Yaafa N'Ma
09. Sako Be Ke
10. Mancipera
11. Tchwa

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