Magazine article Whole Earth

Wanita.(Sound Recording Review) (sound Recording review)

Magazine article Whole Earth

Wanita.(Sound Recording Review) (sound Recording review)

Article excerpt

Rokia Traore $15.98, www.harmoniamundi.com

The Ashkenaz Club in Berkeley was packed to the walls when Rokia Traore walked onto the stage. Traore was being hyped by the marketers as the "Tracy Chapman of Marl"; from her two very reelIow albums, I assumed this would be a "night in the village" affair, with people swaying in the dark or sitting on the floor contemplating the lovely sounds.

But Traore is a cat of a different color: a skinny 25-year-old Malian woman with a shaved head, wearing what looked like a Yamamoto designer dress in black-and-white parachute silk. She opened on acoustic guitar with a beautiful ballad, showing the full range of her warm voice.

Then her band walked out--a balafon player, two ngoni players, a percussionist, and two backup singers--wearing more predictable traditional Marian garb. For forty minutes they tore up the joint. The sound was impeccable. They varied the pace but kept up a barrage of trancelike Marian rhythms. Traore's voice soared above it all. The ngoni players fought, traded licks, and twisted notes, invoking Zoot Horn Rollo and Winged-Eel Fingerling of the Magic Band, with simultaneous parts of Sabicas and Segovia. The dissonant (to Western ears) chords showed where flamenco took root. Every rap, pink, and thonk on the calabash resonated. The balafon buzzed heartily.

It was by far the most outstanding concert I'd seen in a long time. Traore, the daughter of a diplomat, is a natural, extremely gifted as a singer and songwriter. …

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