Rokia Traore is a young singer/songwriter and very popular artist from Mali, one of the most musically productive countries of Afrika. Rokia is from the Bamanan ethnic group. She recieved the influence of the succesful Bamanan singers from the 70's, like Hawa DramÃ©, Fanta Damba y Ami Koita. The use of the pentatonic scale characterize the Bamanan music, typical from the west of Mali.
Being the daughter of a diplomatic, she had to travel a lot durin her childhood (France, Belgium, Algeria, Saudi Arabia..) which allowed her to get in touch with different type of musical cultures and expanded her world view.
Against the desire of her parents, she started singin and performin in public and In 1997 she won the Radio France International African Discoveries award, met the guitarrist Ali Farka Toure, who she describes as her proffesional guide, and recorded her first album Mouneissa(1998). Later will come Wanita(2000) which contains a song in French, and finally Bowmboi (2003) which is even more pensive and austere.
Her songs and unique afrikan voice inspire meditation. When the rhythm speeds it really makes u stand up and dance as if u just got into trance. almost always accompanied by chorus and traditional instruments as the balafon (xylophone), the kora (harp), cabalash percussion and n'goni, an ancient bamanan instrument, a type of little lute with 3-5 strings.
She set herself apart of Griot and Wassoulou women (traditional singers in Mali), her voice and style is soft but intense and versatil (as she describes "the most important thing for me is choosin the right modulation, regardin to the tune's intensity, and, at the same time, perseverate its delicacy, thats what gives "color" to my singin" and her lyrics, talk about traditions, rescpect and love, but also about women indenpendency and about a positive future for her society and generation.
"And even though, to many Western ears, her music might sound quite Malian, she's introduced some radical shifts. She not only fronts a band, but also plays guitar onstage. Her musicians play traditional instruments, but in unusual combinations. She was the first to utilizie the xylophone-like balafaon and ngoni (a type of lute) together. "I feel more inspired by acoustic and traditional instruments. I know their colors, and I feel comfortable with them. Putting them together to create a unique orchestration serves my moods."
Unlike many other singers, she's eschewed electric instruments, because. "I want to show that with traditional and acoustic instruments you could do something different." " (Sonicnet.com)