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Album review: Rokia Traoré, Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)


The daughter of a Malian diplomat, Rokia Traoré is perhaps the most naturally cross-cultural of her country's abundant musical offspring, effortlessly blending styles and sounds as easily as she switches between languages.

Ironically, the most Western-sounding rock groove of this John Parish-produced album is the title-track – elsewhere, the balance between guitar and ngoni is lightly sustained in the slinky, surging undulations of “Sikey” and subtle funk of “Ka Moun Ké”. Whether celebrating the women of Bamako in “Sarama” or addressing the “faithful companion of her solitude” in “Mélancolie”, Traoré's enticing voice is compelling throughout, from the keening ululations embellishing “Lalla” to the more contemplative, quietly impassioned delivery of “N'Téri”.

Download: Lalla; Kouma; N'Téri; Ka Moun Ké