Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

African Queen's Dreamy Visions; WORLD

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

African Queen's Dreamy Visions; WORLD

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE CORNWELL

Rokia Traore

Queen Elizabeth Hall

IT might be the way she glides, barefoot, onstage, whippet-thin in a hip blue-and-white number she could have designed herself.

Or the way she opens with the haunting love song, Kele Mandi, long fingers caressing acoustic guitar strings, voice controlled and bell-like.

Or even the way her six-piece band form a colour-co-ordinated backdrop, from their black tops and calico pants to the mud-dyed cloth camouflaging unsightly wiring.

There's an understated elegance to Rokia Traore that sets her apart from other Malian divas; not for her the flapping robes and origami head-dresses of, say, Oumou Sangare.

Twenty-eight-year-old Traore is a phenomenon on the back of a minimalist aesthetic and unfussy demeanour. Even her shaven head seems streamlined.

A diplomat's daughter, Traore was moulded by a cosmopolitan upbringing in France, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Belgium, which she left to pursue a musical career in Mali.

She wrote lyrics in her native Bambara on subjects such as love, truth and tolerance, composed music that blended instruments not usually heard together like the n'goni and balafon. …

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