The Odyssey




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Hear Rokía Traoré perform

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Rokía Traoré
Rokía Traoré is one the youngest artists in Mali, winning the "Radio France International African Discoveries" competition. And like Lobi Traoré and Amadou and Mariam, Rokia comes from Bélédougou, in the Bambara region of Mali, which is the last stronghold of the Bambara fighters in their long, hard struggle to fend off both Islam and French colonialism in the last century.

With her gentle soothing voice, Rokia enters the arena of Mali's legendary female singers-after all, most of the country's pop stars are women-but she does it on her own terms. Rokia's father was a diplomat and she lived and went to school in Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Algeria, as well as Mali. So it comes naturally for her to sidestep the somewhat bombastic vocal style favored by most Malian singers and to make unusual combinations of musical styles and sounds in her own music.

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"Sabali" comes from Rokia's 1998 debut album Mouneissa on French imprint Indigo. The fusion sounds Rokia fashions are especially well suited to this collection. While two of the banjo-like lutes known as ngoni, trade darting melodies reminiscent of griot music, two acoustic guitars tangle in a more western mode-a little folk, a little blues. Meanwhile, the metallic scaping of the karagnan hints at the rolling triplets of Wassoulou music, one Mali's most bluesy indigenous music styles. The song's lyrics make a poignant appeal for compassion in a world increasingly overwhelmed by greed.

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This information and world music sample are compliments of Putumayo World Music. Putumayo’s mission is to introduce people to other cultures through music, and towards this end they have released dozens of CDs and cassettes featuring some of the best music from around the world.

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