Rokia Traore | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | International | Chicago Reader

Rokia Traore All Ages Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., Feb. 8, 7 p.m. 2009

Over the past decade Malian singer Rokia Traore has secured a reputation as one of Africa’s most original talents. Her music is rooted in native traditions, but she’s increasingly reached across boundaries to pull together a hybrid that’s all her own—you can hear jazz and singer-songwriter folk in the mix, though they don’t announce their presence obnoxiously. Her recently released fourth album, Tchamantche (Nonesuch), is the first to use a Western rhythm section—rather than her usual calabash beats—and while Mamah Diabate embroiders most of the songs on n’goni (a three- or four-stringed lute), the prevalent sound is electric guitars, resonating warmly in airy, intertwining arpeggios. Neither the subtle grooves nor the guitars overwhelm the gorgeous delicacy of Traore’s original songs, which are still built around her elaborate vocal lines and overdubbed harmonies (sung in Bambara and French, except for a smoldering take on the Gershwins’ classic “The Man I Love”). In live performance she ratchets up the intensity but not the volume, as she dispatches each tune with the hypnotizing grace of a gazelle. —Peter Margasak

Price: $20, $18 members, $16 seniors and kids

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