“Tu Voles”/”You fly” sings Rokia in this glorious opener to her 2016 album Né So. Where the album title itself means ‘home‘ this week’s Song means the opposite. “Home” is intended as “an invitation to think about the idea of ‘home'” and the privilege that comes with having one, whereas “Tu Voles” is about striving and escapism.
Delving deeper; are the songs in fact on a similar theme? In both Traore encourages us to consider the plight of those that have no home and sings to us and imposes a character on us of a person so ill at ease, frightened, intimidated, troubled they resort to metaphor; they achieve that universal, impossible dream of humankind through force of will alone. This in a way is Traore’s trademark – using the beauty and vulnerability of “her raspy, quavering voice” to encourage empathy. Mark Hudson of The Telegraph notes that this must be a reflection of “the gravity” of her recent experience – and that of her homeland – noting that the album “is subdued, moody, even dark at times.” He continues;
“Since her last album, 2013’s buoyant and optimistic Beautiful Africa, she’s seen her homeland torn apart by a brutal civil war, including the recent Islamist atrocity in the capital Bamako, and has been beset by a more general sense of “things falling apart”.”
In her own way, Traoré has taken flight herself, with her artistry safely stowed in the overhead compartment. She like so many of Mali’s musicians has become a self-appointed ambassador for her country constantly flying worldwide to tell the rest of us what Mali is all about. To encourage the celebration of its beauty and understanding of its struggles. After taking up a very prestigious place on the Cannes Film Festival Main Jury last year, Traoré will be taking to the greatest stage of all this summer after being confirmed in the Glastonbury line-up – the festival continuing its marvellous support of Mali’s musicians. Malian’s have also been confirmed at a range of other festivals for example, Songhoy Blues have just completed a Tour in Australia and New Zealand, taking in those respective countries’s WOMAD festival. Back in the UK, WOMAD has yet to grace the shores of this soggy island in 2016, the festival scheduled for 28th-31st July. There French fiddle will meet Malian kora, percussion and vocals in the form of the exciting collaborative new-comers N’Diale.
So with the importance of her message evident here’s to hoping that Rokia is rewarded with one of the weekend’s precious “sunset slots” where the magic of the festival is unveiled in its entirety; liquid gold streaming around the summit of Glastonbury Tor, streaming down its sides, an image that defines the majesty of the place. Tens of thousands in a sun-soak crowd, basking in the immediacy of that fading moment before the giver of all life creeps away to brighten up a new day elsewhere on Earth.
Well, it’s that or it’ll be lashing it down with rain.
Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.
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