Rokia Traoré at INmusic festival in 2009.
(1974-01-26) January 26, 1974 (age 43)
Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Rokia Traoré (born January 26, 1974) is a Victoires de la Musique award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist, born in Mali as a member of the Bambara ethnic group. Her father was a diplomat and she travelled widely in her youth. She visited such countries as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France and Belgium and was exposed to a wide variety of influences. Her hometown of Kolokani is in the northwestern part of Mali’s Koulikoro region.
While the Bamana have a tradition of griot performing at weddings, members of the nobility, such as Rokia, are discouraged from performing as musicians. Rokia attended lycée in Mali while her father was stationed in Brussels and started performing publicly as a university student in Bamako. Rokia plays acoustic guitar as well as sings, and she uses vocal harmonies in her arrangements which are rare in Malian music. In 1997, she linked with Mali musician Ali Farka Touré which raised her profile. She won an Radio France Internationale prize as “African Discovery” of 1997, an honor previously won by Mali’s Habib Koité in 1993. As well as guitar she plays ngoni (lute) and balafon.
Her first album Mouneïssa (Label Bleu), released in late 1997 in Mali and September 1, 1998 in Europe, was acclaimed for its fresh treatment and unqualifiable combinations of several Malian music traditions such as her use of the ngoni and the balafon. It sold over 40,000 copies in Europe.
On July 11, 2000, her second album Wanita was released. Traoré wrote and arranged the entire album. The album was widely acclaimed with The New York Times nominating it as one of its critics’ albums of the year.
Her 2003 album Bowmboï has two tracks recorded with the Kronos Quartet but still sung in the Bamana language, and was awarded the prestigious BBC Radio 3 World Music Award. As of 2005, she has been nominated three times for this award. She played at WOMAD in 2004 and completed her first tour of North America in the same year.
Rokia Traoré singing at TED in 2007.
In 2005 she performed at the “Africa Live” festival, held in Dakar (Senegal) on 12 and 13 March 2005, where several great names of African music were present, including: Malians Ali Farka Tou