Monday, March 10, 2008

Mali Monday #4: Oumou Sangaré

Image found here.

Official site (which offers a free downloadable track, the lovely down-tempo "NeBife," from her most recent album, Oumou).


Along with Rokia Traoré, Sangaré is among the best-known female Malian singers in a country whose musical traditions are still dominated by men. Would-be female singers still often meet with stiff resistance from their families and achieve any sort of career at all through sheer force of will (Traoré is an exception to this, though). That sense of having earned her role under duress, I think, is easily visible in Sangaré; no shrinking violet, she. She is a singer of Wassoulou, a contemporary genre of songs, relatively pop-oriented in feel, that deal with themes that confront women in West Africa: the freedom to choose a mate; childbirth; polygamy; etc. She is an advocate for women's rights in a place where the most fundamental of those rights are still very much at issue.

Here are performances of two songs at the Africa Live: Roll Back Malaria concert:


and "Wayenia":


R. Sherman said...

I'm very busy at the moment, but I wanted to mention, I'm enjoying this Monday diversions.


Abraham said...
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Cordelia said...

I listened to the free download and really enjoyed it. I, too, am enjoying all you have shared about music from Mali. Nice to focus on music from one country instead of simply "African music." And so: what would you say distinguishes Malian (?) music from the music of its neighbors ?

John B. said...

Randall and Cordelia, thanks for listening and enjoying the selections so far.

Cordelia, you ask a good question; it's one that I'll write a longer post on in the future. I'm by no means an expert on this, but one thing I've learned is that the term "Malian music" is mostly a convenient term. Very generally, the nation is divided culturally into north and south, each with its own musical tradition. The north is desert and scrubland; Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen are the musicians I've so far posted on from that region (though they themselves are from very different groups--Tinariwen are Touareg; Touré was ethnically descended from the Songhai and Peul peoples. It has much in common with the other cultural groups of sub-Saharan areas of western Africa. The south, watered by the Niger, has more in common with the musics of Ghana and Senegal; the griot tradition is stronger here than in the north, and the kora is the ubiquitous instrument of that region. Rokia Traoré, Toumani Diabaté and Oumou Sangaré are from the south.

These regions are so distinct from each other culturally that on the liner notes for Ali Farka Touré's and Toumani Diabaté's album, In the Heart of the Moon, the liner notes make clear that neither had played the music of the other's region, even though they live in the same country. I think it's the presence of those two very distinct traditions, each centuries old and only now beginning to interact with each other, that intrigues me about Mali's musics.

Sanaag said...
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Sanaag said...

Mali Monday is a great initiative! Looking forward to future posts.

I think family resistance to their children (not only females) becoming muisicians is mainly due to the tradtional image people have about this profession. On the one hand, musicians are highly respected as creative and cultural icons. On the other hand, it's a common African belief/observation that many esp. male artists behave irresponsibly by neglecting family/social duties, drinking, using drugs, having mistresses and/or children in every port etc.
Despite this ambiguous image, it's positively peculiar that Mali has relatively more female singers than most African or even 3rd world countries, possibly because of the fact that jelimusow (female griots) have been part and parcel of the local cultures for ages. This 'Mali Top 30' stops in 2003, but it gives an indication:

I don't speak the languages in which she sings, but I understand Oumou Sangare also challenges the establishment for equal opportunities for women in education, employment, higher socio-political functions etc. Btw, check out this vid; Baba Salah plays electric guitar on this version which makes it quite different from the original CD-version: