Announcing BAMANAN by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

Rokia Koné, one of Mali’s most popular female singers, has announced her long-awaited debut album BAMANAN — a collaboration with Irish-born, California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee. Ahead of its release on February 18, 2022, they have shared the single ‘N’yanyan’.

Rokia Koné, who is already a major star in her home country, was first introduced to international audiences as part of the acclaimed feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique in 2017 when she featured alongside some of West Africa’s biggest female artists on the critically-acclaimed album République Amazone.

Jacknife Lee is a producer of globally-renowned bands U2, R.E.M and The Killers, and has earned Grammy recognition for his work on Taylor Swift’s multi-million selling Red. Stadium-sized soundscapes are his speciality, yet BAMANAN finds Lee upholding the stark beauty of Rokia’s voice with subtlety and sensitivity. Every nuance and breath is heard, each inflection and melismatic improvisation carefully preserved. This is best exemplified on the stunning new single ‘N’yanyan’.

BAMANAN is out on February 18, 2022 on vinyl, CD and digital. The vinyl edition comes with an accompanying lyric & photo book.

Pre-order the album

The vocals for ‘N’yanyan’ were recorded in Bamako on August 18, 2020, the night of a coup d’état that marked another period of instability for Mali, a country troubled by severe political upheaval for almost a decade. Inspired by the turbulent events happening around her, Rokia delivered a profound vocal performance in a single take, just before the power was shut down and a curfew imposed on the city. Fittingly, it is a song with an existentialist theme about the ephemeral nature of life and the
things that cannot be explained, encouraging us to accept and embrace them bravely.

N’yanyan is based on a very old song created by our ancestors, acknowledging our limits and our mortality. I sing it for all human beings, to tell them that we are in the middle ground and all this will end one day. This difficulty is only a moment in time, and all things will pass.” — Rokia Koné 

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee - N'yanyan (Official Video)

The video for ‘N’yanyan’ was directed by award-winning Senegalese filmmaker Joseph Gaï Ramaka at his home on Gorée Island, Senegal, showing two different aspects of the song — its universal message of comfort and healing, and also the personal catharsis it offers.

Working on Koné’s music dovetailed with a change in attitude for Jacknife Lee. A few years previously he’d taught music to teenagers whose enthusiasm around the machinations of Nineties hip-hop got him thinking about his own youth — when he was excited by the mystery of music making. “I wanted to switch from being the person who had the most amount of knowledge in the room to the one saying ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing but let’s just see what happens.’” The opportunity to work on Rokia’s album met the criteria. “It actually felt like the thing I had always wished to do,” he says.

At its heart, BAMANAN is a tribute to the Bambara of southern Mali, to their language, culture and the practices. Koné, while born into a noble caste, takes inspiration from the tradition of the hereditary griots, the praise singers vital to the fabric of Malian society. “It is the role of the griot to perpetuate the tradition,” says Koné. “To remind us of our origins, our culture.”

Jacknife Lee. Photo credit: Jackie Radinsky

Reacting to an early preview of the album, French novelist Maryse Condé, who wrote Segu (a worldwide best-seller inspired by the story of the Bambara people) said: “Rokia’s voice has all the magic and subtlety of the griots. Sometimes her voice cuts like a blade, sometimes it’s as soft as a child’s. She possesses the musicality of the sounds of a kora. She combines force and gentleness.”

BAMANAN by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee is out on February 18, 2022 on Real World Records and is available to pre-order on CD and double LP (with accompanying lyric & photo book). The first single, ‘N’yanyan’, is available to stream now on all digital platforms.

Pre-order BAMANAN

Featured Release


    Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

    Released 18 February 2022

    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, a.k.a the Rose of Bamako. On her debut album, she teams up with California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee to reimagine the Malian sound in ways both leftfield and beautiful.

By Online Editor

Published on Tue, 26 October 21

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