CD: Rokia Traore, Tchamantche


Rokia Traore has changed direction once again, with dramatic results. In the five years since her last album, Bowmboi, she has toured the US celebrating the life of Billie Holiday, and written a new work - an African response to the life of Mozart - for the maverick director Peter Sellars. Now comes an intriguing, sophisticated and often intimate set that is quite unlike any of the other great music Mali has produced. Many of the songs are built around her subtle and bluesy electric-guitar work, but also make use of the classical western harp and African ngoni, though no longer the balafon. The result is an exquisitely recorded set that manages to sound contemporary but still distinctively African. It's remarkable mostly because of the quality and range of her singing, which can be quietly slinky and personal, rousing, as well as breathy. The songs are mostly in Bambara, with two in French and one in English - a wildly individual treatment of the Gershwin classic The Man I Love, that starts as a brooding ballad and ends as a scat work-out. Traore has become the experimental diva of Africa.


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

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