Rokia Koné

It’s a voice that soars – pure, clear and true — above bass and synths, traditional percussion and infectious Mande guitar grooves. A stop-you-in-your-tracks voice instantly familiar to anyone in Mali, West Africa: Rokia Koné, aka the Rose of Bamako.

One of Mali’s most beloved and dynamic artists, Koné is a force to be reckoned with. Her captivating performances in the city’s local maquis clubs very often last for hours, as Koné runs the gamut of emotion from joy to despair, fury to tenderness, wielding that astounding voice with grace and power.

Born on January 1, 1984, Koné’s musical journey began as a young child in the courtyard of her home in Dioro near Ségou, the cradle of the great Bamana Empire. “I would mostly sing my grandmother’s songs,” she says. “My uncles and aunts on both sides of my family were also singers. I was always surrounded by music.”

The young Rokia headed to Bamako, becoming a backing singer for Alia Coulibaly, one of Mali’s biggest stars, then quickly earned top billing as a solo artist in her own right. In 2016 she caught the attention of Valérie Malot, founder of renowned French booking agency 3D Family, who invited her to join feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique and make her debut on an international stage.

In 2022, Rokia releases her debut album BAMANAN, a collaboration with Irish-born, California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M, Snow Patrol, The Killers).

Jacknife Lee. Photo credit: Jackie Radinsky.

Jacknife Lee

Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee is an Irish music producer and mixer based in California who has become one of the most sought after and highly influential producers in rock music. His career has encompassed work with some of the biggest and most influential artists on both sides of the Atlantic including U2, R.E.M., The Killers and Snow Patrol.

Lee’s work on U2’s How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb saw him collect two Grammy Awards in 2006 as well as Producer of the Year at the UK MMF Awards. He was also again Grammy-nominated in 2013 for his work on Swift’s multi-million selling album Red.

Lee started as a guitarist for the punk band Compulsion, then pursued a solo career in the field of electronica after the band’s break-up. His first solo work, the EP A Dog Named Snuggles, was released under the name Jacknife Lee in 1998 by Pussyfoot Records, a label founded by Howie B.

Lee released his first album, Muy Rico, in 1998. His most recent release, 2020’s The Jacknife Lee, featured a diverse range of guest artists, including Beth Ditto, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Petite Noir and Aloe Blacc.

Further reading

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s classic album Shahbaaz re-issued to mark 30th anniversary

This traditional album was recorded live at Real World Studios during the Mustt Mustt sessions.

Announcing BAMANAN by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

A rising West African singer teams up with Irish-born, California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee.

Track of the day: ‘Kurunba’ by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

'Kurunba' is the second single from the forthcoming album BAMANAN.

Track of the day: Bob Holroyd ‘Continuum’

Bob Holroyd's ‘Continuum’ is the fourth single to be released by Holroyd on Real World X and sho...