03. Rokia Traore – Beautiful Africa
Rokia Traore is from Mali. She’s from the Bambara people. And she’s one of the most gifted musicians and songwriters that I’ve been introduced to in years. This album is sung mostly in French and Bambara. Lyrically, from what I’ve been told by the interwebs, it’s an album detailing the state of modern Africa, the good and the bad. But I don’t care about that. I care about how groovy and complex the melodies are. Traore lays down guitar tracks to contrast against n’goni (a traditional West African string instrument). Her vocals have a percussive quality to them at times. She can sing her ass off too. The song structures are not simple. This is layered, complex rock/folk music. Progressive, at times. There are many points in this album where I’m reminded of The Mars Volta. Yes, you read that correctly. Look, just click on the YouTube links. “Lalla” begins with a familiar electric blues riff, throws an n’goni riff on top of it, uses backing vocals to create a spiritual sort of mood, then uses her verses to rhtymically punctuate things and keep the song grounded. It’s a high-wire act. “Melancollie” is unrelentingly beautiful as it shifts and squirms. The title track breaks into powerfully-phrased English all of a sudden to claim “My faith doesn’t know failure.” Rokia Traore is the artist on this list that the least amount of people will have heard of, so she is the artists that I most want people to check out. This album took me by complete surprise and forced its way into a debate for my very favorite album of the year. It’s stunning.
Originally Posted by Delano
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