10 June / 20:00
Rokia Traore, Mali
“Beautiful Africa” (2013)

Within the new Platonov Arts Festival WORLD MUSIC program presenting the best achievements of musical cultures of different nations, the remarkable and world famous Rokia Traoré – “Malian Princess” of the world music scene will give her first gig in Russia!!!

Rokia Traoré  - is an incredibly successful singer and extraordinary artist in the world of ethnic music from Africa. Only in 2013 she already had more than 60 concerts in Rome, Paris, Oslo, Ljubljana, London and other European cities as well as tours in the USA, Australia and Canada. Being both the composer and performer of her own songs based on singing traditions of Bambara folk she often accompanies herself on electric guitar – which is quite unusual for Malian singers and gets her close to rock stars. More than half of her repertoire consists of songs in Bamana language - the second official language of Mali besides French. Rokia also sings in English and French.

Being the daughter of a diplomat, Rokia had no musical training, she gave up her studies in Brussels to return to Mali to create a new form of music, in which her songs would be backed by her acoustic guitar, along with n’goni and the xylophone-like balaba balafon, two instruments not normally played together in Africa.

Her breakthrough came when she was hailed as the ‘African Discovery’ of 1997 by Radio France Internationale after playing at the Angouleme Festival, in France, and since then she has continued to experiment and explore new ideas.

Her first album “Mouneïssa”, released in late 1997 in Mali and the year after - in Europe, was acclaimed for its fresh treatment and unqualifiable combinations of several Malian music traditions such as her use of the n’goni and the balafon. It sold over 40,000 copies in Europe.  In 2000 Rokia came up with her second album “Wanita”. She wrote and arranged the entire album, which was widely acclaimed with The New York Times nominating it as one of its critics' albums of the year. Rokia’s next work  - Bowmboï (2003) includes 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.  In 2005 she performed at the "Africa Live" festival in Dakar (Senegal), dedicated to the fight against malaria in Africa and at the Youssou N'dour and Friends concert in Geneva, which was also a supporting gala against malaria, with Peter Gabriel and other great musicians.  In December 2006 Peter Sellars' New Crowned Hope festival, which is part of the City of Vienna's celebrations commemorating Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birthday 250 years ago, saw the world premiere of Wati, a performance by Rokia Traoré and the Klangforum Wien. In 2008 Rokia released her 4th album "Tchamantché" that reflected her new fascination with the Gretsch electric guitar, and won a Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent of a Grammy, as well as a Songlines Artist of the Year Award for Traoré.  

Being busy with her musical projects Rokia does not forget her homeland - she has created The Passerelle (foot bridge) Foundation, whose mission is to support the process of organization and development of the music industry and the arts in Mali.

The past 2013 year has been a quite extraordinarily productive period for Traoré. One of the most inventive female singer/songwriters in Africa today, Rokia Traoré   is remarkable not just for the range of her powerful and emotional voice but also for the sheer variety of her work. She has written three wildly different new sets of music: the acoustic Damou (Dream), the often bluesy Donguili (Sing), and the rock-influenced Donke (Dance), in which she set out to show “three different aspects of Malian culture and my own personality.” Produced by the UK’s prestigious Barbican (performing arts centre in the City of London and the largest of its type in Europe), all three were performed at different London venues in one week last summer— a feat she repeated at this year’s Sydney Festival in Australia. She has toured Britain on the Africa Express train, stopping off around the country for concerts that included collaborations with Damon Albarn as well as Paul McCartney and John Paul Jones, who joined her backing band for the London finale. And she has continued acting as well, with British and European performances in Toni Morrison and Peter Sellars’ much-praised theatrical/musical re-working of the Shakespearian story of Desdemona, for which she wrote the music. In 2013 Rokia played at such major summer music festivals as Glastonbury and Roskilde. 

But probably her main contribution for the past 2013 is the release of “Beautiful Africa” – last Traoré record.

“It’s clear that it’s inspired by rock music. But I didn’t want to make rock and roll in the Western tradition…I wanted something that’s rock and roll but still Malian and still me”, says Rokia about this work. There are three guitarists on the album, including Traoré herself, but though the record is constructed around rock riffs and sturdy bass work, it still has a distinctively West African feel, thanks to rousing performances from Mamah Diabaté on the n’goni, the ancient, harsh-edged African lute. It’s an instrument that Traoré has used in compositions throughout her career, and she argues, “You can put it with everything. I’ve used n’goni in classical music projects, and it goes with blues, or jazz, or rock and roll. It’s a great instrument!” Traoré’s changes of musical direction usually start with “a sound that I imagine…a sound inside my head.” She didn’t want to imitate what other people had done “because I need to do what I imagine - that’s the reason I’m making music.” And while working on “Beautiful Africa” she needed someone to help her create the sound that she imagined, and eventually decided on John Parish, the writer, guitarist, and producer who has worked with Tracy Chapman, Eels, and PJ Harvey. 

That’s how The Independent (British national newspaper) described “Beautiful Africa”:  “Rokia rocks, and it's a fine and bracing thing to hear”.

On 10 June 2014 Voronezh will have the unique chance to be the first city in Russia to welcome such an outstanding and remarkable artist as Rokia Traoré, who especially for her Platonovfest concert will visit our city amidst her European tour, and enjoy the wonderful world of her music and culture. You will hear songs from the latest record “Beautifil Africa” (2013) and other hits at the biggest Voronezh city concert venue - Event-Hall.

Don’t miss one of the Russian major musical events of the coming summer – the gig of Rokia Traoré and her band in Voronezh at Platonov Arts Festival!!! 

Rokia Traore official website 

Rokia Traore Facebook

Fondation Passerelle