- 18 Feb 22
Stunning collaboration between Malian singer and Irish producer
Rokia Koné is known as the Rose of Bamako, Mali’s capital, revered for her legendary performances in the city’s maquis clubs. Her debut album, Bamanan, sees Koné collaborating with Irish-born, California-based Jacknife Lee, best known for producing mega-selling acts like Taylor Swift, U2 and R.E.M.
Lee first came across Koné through her work with west African supergroup, Les Amazones d’Afrique, while trying to make contact with her guitarist, and was floored by her voice. It’s not hard to hear why. Within a couple of bars of soaring opener ‘Bi Ye Tulonba Ye’ (‘Today Is A Great Party’), it should be obvious to anyone with half-an-ear that Kone’s voice is a remarkable and mighty instrument that transcends language and culture. This listener’s first reaction was to punch the air and whoop out loud, such is its immediate power – like hearing Hendrix burning up a guitar for the first time or Martin Hayes making his fiddle weep.
Even if we don’t understand the words Koné is singing, there is no mistaking the raw emotion that shines through every note, from the insistent ‘Kurunba’ (a curse from a woman on the day of her daughter’s wedding) to the trancey feminist anthem ‘Mayougouba’. Bamanan is powerful stuff; a heady brew of driving polyrhythms, smooth synths, hypnotic melodies and call-and-response vocals on the kind of tunes that will slip effortlessly under your skin and stay there. Magic.