Rokia Koné, From Mali, Sings for the World. Especially women.

African musicians don’t need outside help. More recently, Nigerian Afrobeats, South African amapiano and other radical, high-tech, danceable styles have reached listeners worldwide without the need for Western intermediaries. But the proof of the partnership is in its sound, not its pedigree, and the album “Bamanan” is a transcontinental alliance that finds synergy of its own.

“Bamanan” features Rokia Koné, a musician and singer from Mali, a core member of the West African group Les Amazones d’Afrique on their 2017 album. “Republique Amazone” – with Garret “Jacknife” Lee, an Irish producer who has worked with U2 and Taylor Swift and is currently based in California.

Koné’s voice jumps out of every song. Drawing on the West African Griot style, she sings with a fearless determination, building to a shabby voice as her tunes reach their zenith. Her band Malian offers percussion, backup vocals, and evocative, rhythmic lead guitar riffs on traditional African instruments. Lee adds keyboards, guitars, and drums, placing songs in a spacious, revolving digital world.

It is an equal partnership that is evident in the opening song, “Bi Ye Tulonba Ye” (“Today is a great party”), a call to unite and end injustices. copper. At the beginning, Koné’s vocals are an urgent spell between reverential, suspended synths, with a steady beat that slowly reveals itself. But the song plays when her band joins, surrounded by rhythmic and melodious crossovers of percussion and guitar.

“Bamanan” was built gradually and from afar; Koné and Lee never met face-to-face while working on the album. During the pandemic, Koné and her band recorded in 2016 and 2018 – vocals in Paris, instruments in Mali – which were sent to Lee after he listened to Les Amazones while judging a remix contest. . In 2020, Lee added instrumental and production parts to Koné’s lessons, and he collaborated on a new song with Koné, “N’yanyan.”

Koné sings the vocalist “N’yanyan” in Mali in August 2020, the day a coup d’etat toppled Mali’s government. Her tune is based on an old song; Lee production offers simple, solid digital piano chords. On a day of political upheaval, Koné thoughtfully counsels for a vision while contemplating death: “This life is passing / Just a moment,” she sings in Bambara, the language she uses throughout the album.

Both history and a sense of indignation are present in “Bamanan”. Though she doesn’t come from a hereditary family, Koné writes like an enthusiast: a defender of culture recalling history and speaking as a public conscience. “Bamanan” is named after the Bamana Empire, two centuries when Bambara leaders ruled much of what is now Mali. “Anw Tile (It’s Our Time)” combines rhythm guitars and sparkling synths as Koné and her backup vocalists chronicle leaders and locations. empire: “This is a golden hour,” declared a woman’s voice in unison. “Those who missed it, it was a great time.”

The album also expanded on the outspoken feminism that Koné shared with Les Amazones. “Mayougouba” (“Move, Dance”) cheerfully tells women all over the world that “You are as perfect as you are”. Best song of the album, “Kurunba,” Its voice calls and responds with galloping percussion and fast-synthetic ripples, as Koné’s narrator is moved by being pushed aside by her husband after raising children: “My children are older now/ Suddenly the door is closed to me,” she reprimanded.

Koné also remade a song she brought to Les Amazones: “Mansa Soyari,” which celebrates female role models and states, “A country isn’t great without women.” With Les Amazones, the song is rock music that is distorted, distorted, psychedelic; with Lee, it’s lighter, more in sync, and more transparent, calling out kora (harp) samples of Griot songs, but also hinting at funk and flaunting some otherworldly digital manipulation. Given Bambara’s deep background, the song is sure of its roots; sure that its passion will be understood anywhere.

Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee
(The real world) Rokia Koné, From Mali, Sings for the World. Especially women.

Fry Electronics Team

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