Rokia Traoré graced The Cedar’s stage in 2009 on a tour behind the subdued record Tchamantché. Her live band on that tour was anything but passive, in fact that concert remains one of my all-time favorite Cedar performances because of the intense energy in the room. Rokia has made her career on breaking the traditions of west African music while still representing them in her music. It is unusual for a female musician in Mali to perform on a guitar but Rokia is a stunning player. It is the blending of guitar and Ngoni (African style banjo) on her records that make her recordings so rich.
This past year Rokia teamed up with producer extraordinaire, John Parish (known for his work with PJ Harvey, Giant Sand, Sparklehorse etc), on Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch). I’ve been waiting for a release to highlight the energy of Rokia’s band on stage and Beautiful Africa delivers. The video above features the hypnotic track "Sikey," ("Speak Openly") a song that addresses Rokia’s career choice as a musician (she is the daughter of an upper class diplomat) and the covert commentary from doubters. The last line will resonate with anyone who struggles with their path in life; "My choice comes from the heart, I’m sticking by it to the very end." (English translation of the songs of Beautiful Africa can be found here.)
Tickets for Rokia’s Monday, November 25th concert are available here.
Michael - Marketing Director, The Cedar Cultural Center