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Best of The Beat on Afropop: Oumou Sangare, Mali’s Nightingale

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This week’s installment of “Best of The Beat” from 1997 features the Malian diva Oumou Sangare, who has just released her first album in eight years. [See Banning Eyre’s review of Mogoya here.]

A goddess among goddesses from the Wassoulu region, renowned for its strong tradition of women vocalists, Oumou emerged on the international scene in 1989, and rose to renown through a series of recordings and tours in the ‘90s. An outspoken campaigner for women’s rights (highly unusual in traditional African societies), she fearlessly delivered her messages against polygamy and inequality.

She told me: “When I sing, I have I have a message to say to the women—that they have to have courage, they have to get up, they have to choose a man who loves them and refuse to accept forced marriage, they can’t accept to be treated like a slave.”

In December 1995 I was given the privilege to get behind the scenes and watch one of Africa’s superstars and band at work. On tour with Oumou and her group for three days in the Netherlands, I was also invited to spend a day in the studio as World Circuit producer Nick Gold captured on tape the sounds that would become Oumou’s album, Worotan. I was in the studio when the haunting song, “Djorolen,” was cut; it still remains my favorite of all her compositions.

We invite you to enjoy the story of my experiences and observations on the road with Oumou and company, and excerpts from my conversation with her, translated from French.

READ OR DOWNLOAD PDF: Beat16#2Oumou

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