Meet Rokia Koné: the Rose of Bamako

The latest single to be released from Les Amazone d’Afrique‘s critically acclaimed album République Amazone is ‘Mansa Soyari’. The song and its video feature the outstanding Malian singer, Rokia Koné, whose powerful, distinctive voice will stop you in your tracks. Little known outside of her native country, Koné is one of the rising female stars emerging in West Africa.

‘Mansa Soyari’ is a song about women. About African women seizing opportunity. Women’s strength. Women’s freedom. Women fighting for education. Loosely translated as kingdom in movement, the song refers to an African queen from the past, when women held great power in Africa.

Rokia urges women to take more responsibility and not to stay in the shadows. Look to the powerful women in history who headed kingdoms, who led the way as activists and advocates for women’s rights —these women are an inspiration for today.

Les Amazones d'Afrique - 'Mansa Soyari'

The video was filmed in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and juxtaposes Rokia performing in a city nightclub, with her at home, surrounded by family members. In the club, she performs with wild abandon— giving her heart and soul to the song. At home, she is seated, dressed in traditional clothing, but still radiates the positivity of a young, modern African woman sending the message of equality and opportunity.

Rokia Koné grew up in the village of Dioro, a village some 100 km from Segou, Mali. She comes from a musical family where her singing talents were supervised by her uncle. Growing up in the cradle of the ancient kingdom of Bamanan, with its rich ancestral culture, Rokia was naturally influenced by the area’s predominant musical heritage, specifically Bamananfoly, one of the essential strains of Malian music.

Rokia Koné performs with Les Amazones d'Afrique at WOMAD Festival, 31 July 2016.

Rokia’s musical career really began when, in 2008, she started singing with Alia Coulibaly. By 2012 Rokia had founded her own group, quickly monopolizing the cabarets and cultural centres Bamako. Affectionately nicknamed La Rose de Bamako (The Rose of Bamako), Rokia’s music is a mix of traditional Bamanandougou rhythms and modern sounds of blues, rock, jazz. She sings mainly in Bamanankan, the national language of Mali and spoken by the majority of Malians. Her lyrics speak powerfully of themes of unity, social cohesion and peace.

Today, Rokia Koné is an key member Les Amazone d’Afrique. Founded in 2016, Les Amazones d’Afrique is an all-female collective from West Africa, united in calling for equal rights and against violence towards women, strong in the belief that music can support social progress and trigger a change of attitude.

To be a woman is an opportunity: don't stand shy. Don't be in the shadow. The strength of women develops countries. We women fight for our girls to go to school. To be a woman is a chance... Lyrical excerpt from 'Mansa Soyari'

Forthcoming UK tour dates will see Rokia Koné take a lead, with fellow West African singers Awa SanghoMamani KeitaKani Sidibe and Sam Rawit.

Mansa Soyari is released on 18 May 2018, including the previously unreleased track ‘Mamani Blues’.

Featured Release

  • République Amazone

    Les Amazones d’Afrique

    Released 10 March 2017

    Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians campaigning for gender equality. They have been described as a supergroup, and the characterisation seems apt. Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné hold a strong pedigree.

By Sophie Beck

Published on Wed, 18 April 18

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