Malian singer Rokia Traore blends the traditions of her Bamana heritage with a modern singer-songwriter's approach to music-making. Ambitious albums — and an opera — have made her a European star.

Why you should listen

Born into a traveling, diplomatic family, Rokia Traore absorbed her own Malian traditions into a world-ranging love of music. Playing off the griot tradition, she tweaks the traditional Bamana styles by playing her own acoustic guitar and arranging haunting backing vocals. Her smooth sound is punctuated by the heartfelt, raw tone of the n'goni lute and the harp-like kamala.

Most recently, Traore has made news for a triumphant "quasi-opera" on the final year of Mozart's life. Wati re-imagines a dying Mozart as a griot in ancient West Africa, heir to a long line of hereditary musicians. The work, commissioned by opera director Peter Sellars, has played to thrilled audiences across Europe. Her 2001 album Bowmboi included collaborations with the Kronos Quartet, further enriching her modern Malian sound.

Rokia Traore’s TED talks

More news and ideas from Rokia Traore

TEDsters trek to WOMAD

July 27, 2009

Immediately after TEDGlobal 2009, a group of TEDsters took off for WOMAD at Charlton Park — the three-day world music festival founded by TED speaker Peter Gabriel (watch his talk from 2006). Sleeping in teepees, rocking all night … the pictures tell the story. Above, twilight bubbles, photographed by TED’s Lara Stein, director of the […]

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4 great talks for International Women's Day

March 8, 2009

To celebrate March 8, International Women’s Day, we suggest these four TEDTalks gems from some amazing speakers — artists, scientists and economists who think deeply about the role of women. Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, feminism — and the power of passionate thinkers and doers: The former Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi […]

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Rokia Traoré’s new record, Tchamantché

January 15, 2009

This week, the wonderful Rokia Traoré released her new record, Tchamantché, and it’s been rolling up glowing reviews. If you fell in love with Rokia’s smoky voice and her thoughtful, sensitive songs via her two songs on, or during her knockout set at Pangea Day last May, seek this record out. You can find […]

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