Rokia Traoré – 'Beautiful Africa' album review

A defiant and vividly alive musical response to the crisis in Mali

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Rokia Traoré – 'Beautiful Africa'

  • Rated as: 4/5

Of all the musical responses by Malian artists to the political and humanitarian crisis in their homeland, you won’t find one more defiantly and vividly alive than this. Determined not to ‘sing my sadness’, Rokia Traoré recruited PJ Harvey producer John Parish and drummer Seb Rochford for her typically extraordinary fifth album, debuting the project at Village Underground last year in a show titled, simply, ‘Dance’. Western guitar and African n’goni work together as fluidly as her lyrics in French, English and Bambara. Strident rock-outs swing you by the hand and soothing ballads breathe warmly in your ear. Her voice trills with urgency, tenderness, joy. And the hushed parting hymn, ‘Sarama’, leaves no doubt as to where this statuesque woman, now self-exiled in Paris, draws her own inspiration: ‘Every day they face their destiny/ Shirtless, barefoot, under the sun/ Women in Africa are strong’.


Watch Rokia Traoré's 'Mélancolie' video


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