Across Africa, there is considerable discussion over he question of who is the greatest male vocalist—Youssou N’Dour or perhap Salif Keïta? But when it comes to the greatest female, there is little debate. The young Malinese singer Rokia Traoré—who now lives in France—Is acclaimed across the continent and the world. And it doesn’t hurt her international standing that she is not only a gifted vocalist but beautiful as well.
The glamorous photographs on her website appear to be at odds with her soulful music and disarming personality. But these images may have a deeper meaning. Traoré doesn’t see herself as an African first and foremost, but as a musician who happens to be from that corner of the world. She doesn’t deny her origins, but neither does she want to be judged by them.
Her music may sound typically African to the western ear, but the traditional musicians that accompany her on recordings often had to study hard to master this strange sounding music. Completely self-taught as a singer and guitarist Traoré was inspired, just like millions of teenagers around the globe, by learning the western pop tunes she heard on radio by heart.
Unlike Youssou N’Dour or Salif Keïta, who returned to their roots after digressing into western pop music, Rokia Traoré’s singing appears to be increasingly liberated from African traditions as she expands into a universal talent.