Afrique, Je T’Aime
April 29, 2013
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Beautiful Africa – Rokia Traore
It may be a churlish thing to say but one positive thing to come out of the troubles besetting Mali is the explosion of music from its established stars. Rokia Traore’s latest album, Beautiful Africa, is an eloquent plea for the preservation of her country’s historic culture of tolerance. The title track sees the chanteuse in fine form lamenting in French and Bambara the effects of war and conflict on her homeland and ends, in English, with an impassioned plea, “Lord, give us wisdom, give us foresight”.
Traore’s vocal style is distinctive, moving from cool and soothing to an impassioned style almost at the flick of a switch. She has Nina Simonesque qualities at times. Her backing is spare and atmospheric with drums, n’goni – a stringed instrument like a lyre – guitar and bass adding sound patterns that complement her vocals. The way that her guitar weaves intricate patterns with Mamah Diabate’s n’goni creates a magical sound. This is a slightly funkier and rockier set than her last release of five years ago, Tchamanthche, but none the worse for that. The precision of the vocals and the instrumentation draw the listener in and demands their full attention. It is late night reflective music to relax to.
As well as the title track the stand-out tracks for me are N’Teri which moves from a sparse n’goni-dominated opening to a full throttle electric finale featuring beatbox and distorted guitars and the more soulful and reflective Melancolie. The album was recorded in the UK – Bristol, in fact – and is produced by John Parish who has worked with PJ Harvey and Eels amongst others.
It was worth the five-year wait for this album. Highly recommended.