Award winning Malian singer & songwriter, Rokia Traoré who is also an Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) was born on January 26th, 1974. She is from Kolokani, a town in the northwestern part of Mali’s Koulikoro region and belongs to the Bambara ethnic group. Her father was a diplomat and this made Rokia travel widely in her youth. She visited such countries as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France and Belgium and was exposed to a wide variety of influences. Her hometown of
As a tradition in Bamana, the griot usually perform at weddings but Rokia being a member of the nobility was discouraged from performing as musicians. Rokia attended lycée in Mali and while her father was stationed in Brussels, she started performing publicly as a university student in Bamako. She plays acoustic guitar, ngoni (lute) and balafon as well as sings, and she uses vocal harmonies in her arrangements which are rare in Malian music.
READ: Salif Keita Biography
In 1997, she linked with Mali musician Ali Farka Touré which raised her profile. That same year, she won a Radio France Internationale prize as “African Discovery” of 1997, an honor previously won by Mali’s Habib Koité in 1993.
Her first album Mouneïssa (Label Bleu)which was released in late 1997 in Mali and September 1, 1998 in Europe, was acclaimed for its fresh treatment and unqualifiable combinations of several Malian music traditions such as her use of the ngoni and the balafon.
On July 11, 2000, her second album Wanita was released. Traoré wrote and arranged the entire album. The album was widely acclaimed with The New York Times nominating it as one of its critics’ albums of the year.
Her 2003 album Bowmboï has 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. She also released the album, Tchamantché on May 6, 2008, followed by her album Beautiful Africa in 2013.
In 2005 she performed at the “Africa Live” festival, held in Dakar (Senegal) and also at the Youssou N’dour and Friends concert in Geneva, which was also a supporting gala against malaria, with Peter Gabriel, Amadou and Mariam, Gilberto Gil, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Neneh Cherry that same year
In September 2012, she was featured in the campaign “30 Songs / 30 Days” to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book. In 2013, she performed at Glastonbury Festival.
She was selected to be on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Rokia was the winner of the Best Artist category in the inaugural Songlines Music Awards (2009) – announced May 1, 2009 – the new ‘world music’ awards organised by the UK-based magazine, Songlines.