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

Rokia Koné, From Mali, Sings for the World. Particularly Girls.

African musicians don’t want outdoors assist. Recently, Nigerian Afrobeats, South African amapiano and different modern, high-tech, totally danceable kinds have reached listeners worldwide with out Western mediators. However the proof of a collaboration is in its sound, not its pedigree, and the album “Bamanan” is a transcontinental alliance that finds its personal synergy.

“Bamanan” pairs Rokia Koné — a songwriter and singer from Mali who was a core member of the West African collective Les Amazones d’Afrique on their 2017 album “Republique Amazone” — with Garret “Jacknife” Lee, an Irish producer who has labored with U2 and Taylor Swift and is now based mostly in California.

Koné’s voice rightfully leaps out of each track. Drawing on West African griot type, she sings with gritty insistence, constructing as much as a sandpapery rasp when her melodies hit their peaks. Her Malian band gives percussion, backup vocals and barbed, modal lead guitar elements that trace at conventional African devices. Lee provides keyboards, guitars and drumbeats, inserting the songs in a swirling, spacious digital realm.

It’s an equal partnership that’s clearly enacted within the opening track, “Bi Ye Tulonba Ye” (“At present Is a Nice Social gathering”), a name for unity and an finish to disagreements. Firstly, Koné’s vocals are an pressing incantation amid reverent, hovering synthesizer tones, with a gradual beat that slowly reveals itself. However the track lifts off as her band joins in, surrounding her with rhythmic and melodic crosscurrents of percussion and guitars.

“Bamanan” was constructed steadily and remotely; Koné and Lee by no means met in particular person whereas making the album. Through the pandemic, periods that Koné and her band had recorded in 2016 and 2018 — vocals in Paris, devices in Mali — have been despatched to Lee after he heard Les Amazones when judging a remix contest. In 2020, Lee added instrumental elements and manufacturing to Koné’s periods, and he collaborated on a brand new track with Koné, “N’yanyan.”

Koné sang the vocals for “N’yanyan” in Mali in August 2020, on the day a coup toppled Mali’s authorities. Her melody relies on an historical track; Lee’s manufacturing gives easy, sustained electric-piano chords. On a day of political upheaval, Koné thoughtfully endorsed taking a protracted view whereas reflecting on mortality: “This life is passing/It’s solely a second in time,” she sang in Bambara, the language she makes use of all through the album.

The sweep of historical past and a way of indignation each course by means of “Bamanan.” Though she doesn’t come from a hereditary griot household, Koné writes like a griot: a cultural guardian recalling historical past and talking as a group conscience. “Bamanan” is called after the Bamana Empire, two centuries when Bambara leaders dominated a lot of what’s now Mali. “Anw Tile (It’s Our Time)” meshes modal guitar curlicues and glimmering synthesizers as Koné and her backup singers chronicle the empire’s leaders and geography: “This time is golden,” ladies’s voices declare in unison. “Those that missed it, it was a good time.”

The album additionally extends the forthright feminism Koné shared with Les Amazones. “Mayougouba” (“Transfer, Dance”) joyfully tells ladies worldwide, “You’re good as you’re.” The album’s most kinetic track, “Kurunba,” paces its call-and-response vocals with galloping percussion and fast synthesizer ripples, as Koné’s narrator rails at being forged apart by her husband after elevating their little one: “Now my little one is of age/Abruptly the door is shut on me,” she reproaches.

Koné additionally remade a track she dropped at Les Amazones: “Mansa Soyari,” which celebrates feminine function fashions and insists, “A rustic isn’t nice with out ladies.” With Les Amazones, the track was swaggering, distorted, psychedelic rock; with Lee, it’s lighter, extra syncopated and extra clear, invoking the kora (harp-guitar) patterns of griot songs, but in addition hinting at funk and flaunting some otherworldly digital manipulations. With its deep Bambara foundations, the track is for certain of the place it comes from; it’s simply as sure that its ardour might be understood wherever.

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee
(Actual World)

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