Amazones Power

Les Amazones d’Afrique

Released 24 January 2020

  1. Heavy (feat. Niariu, Boy Fall & Jon Grace)
  2. Love (feat. Mamani Keïta)
  3. Smile (feat. Niariu & Ami Yerewolo)
  4. Queens (feat. Rokia Koné)
  5. Smooth (feat. Mamani Keïta)
  6. Dreams (feat. Rokia Koné)
  7. Timbuktu (feat. Mamani Keïta& Amadou Dembélé)
  8. Red (feat. Rokia Koné)
  9. Rebels (feat. Nacera Ouali Mesbah)
  10. Dogon (feat. Mamani Keïta & Amadou Dembélé)
  11. Fights (feat. Fafa Ruffino)
  12. Sisters (feat. Kandy Guira)
  13. Power

Liner notes

A creative force that embraces international voices; sweet, strong harmonies that summon the rights of women and girls; a meltdown of heritage and new gen talent… Les Amazones d’Afrique are back with Amazones Power, the sequel to their widely acclaimed 2017 debut album, Republique Amazone.

The roots of this pan-African female “supergroup” date back to 2014, when three renowned Malian music stars and social change activists— Mamani Keïta, Oumou Sangaré and Mariam Doumbia (also from legendary duo Amadou & Mariam) began a conversation about gender equality with Valerie Malot (head of the French booking/creative agency 3D Family). “What we found was that female repression in the continent and in the world, is something that touches every woman,” recalls Malot. “It’s not a question of colour or culture. It’s something generic. All women can relate to it.”

Mariam Doumbia and Oumou Sangaré on stage in 2015.

Universal truths, and a united desire for equality, sparked the formation of Les Amazones: a collective named in homage to generations of courageous and proud warrior women (as well as ground-breaking 1960s female pop group, Les Amazones de Guinee). Les Amazones d’Afrique have also proved fearless in confronting undeniably difficult subjects that remain an issue not just across the African continent, but around the world; throughout the heady roots and electronic grooves of their second album, there are hard-hitting themes, as songs address misogyny and violence, sexual identity, forced marriage, and the barbaric practice of FGM (female genital mutilation, or “cutting”). The sound of the album is also visionary, richly melodic and far-ranging, blending pan-African styles and collaborative harmonies with gritty, contemporary pop, and the Congotronix-style production of legendary producer Doctor L (aka Liam Farrell), who mixed and mastered the record in Dakar and Paris.

Original member Mamani Keïta continues her journey with Les Amazones on Amazones Power, bringing her gorgeously fiery vocals to several tracks, including ‘Love’ (with its commanding sentiment translating as: “The woman deserves respect”), ‘Smooth’, ‘Timbuktu’ and ‘Dogon’. The latest album also features the welcome return of Rokia Koné, aka “The Rose Of Bamako”, who brings glorious soul and wry detail to highlights such as the inspirational ‘Queens’ (a call for solidarity with wives forced to bottle up the cruelty they endure from their new husbands and in-laws). This time, Les Amazones reach has also extended further, bringing in new voices and rising stars from across Africa, including Beninese vocalist Fafa Ruffino, whose versatile range connects the musical influence of her Ghanaian grandmother, gospel and soul genres, and cultural styles from Nigeria to Burkina Faso.

Photo credit: Karen Paulina Biswell

Ruffino is clear about the appeal of joining Les Amazones: “The first thing was the concept,” she says. “I mean, asking different female singers to team up and fight for women’s rights, by using music as the ultimate force, is just amazing. I came running, ‘cause I felt like this was a duty call, and even more than that…”

“We come from different countries, yet we’re facing the same issues in our home towns. We need to show the world that there are no boundaries when it comes to standing for our rights… It felt like the universe put us together. We were fighting alone, and something pushed our energy to meet.”

Les Amazones’ songs speak to siblings, parents, children and societies at large; they often draw deeply from personal experiences, as well as giving vital voice to those who are unfairly overlooked. As the youngest new member of the group, Guinean musician / dancer / artist Niariu, explains:

“To me particularly, the biggest message would be to say that there are voices that really need to be heard— and we have to make space for all women to express themselves and take part in solutions. We can’t make feminism only about gender equality in western countries when a lot of women don’t have access to basic human rights. If we’re not all free, then some become the oppressors while others stay oppressed.

“This project is called Les Amazones d’Afrique, but I think it’s important not to put it in a ‘box’. People need to start realising that the African continent is a significant part of the world. Everything is international about this project, from the people that worked on it to the languages and the sounds we’re using, to the message we’re sharing, and I hope everyone will embrace it as a whole.”

Niariu’s lilting refrain (“Together we must stand/ Together we must end this”) feature on the album’s invigoratingly funky opening track and lead single, Heavy. Elsewhere, the album’s brilliantly diverse, vivacious lead voices include Malian rap star Ami Yerewolo, Algerian singer Nacera Ouali Mesbah (whose work has included taking on traditionally male-dominated chaabi music; here, she delivers the incendiary Arabic-language lyrics of Rebels— “We want to live free, live in peace… The path is certainly long, but we will succeed”), and Ivory Coast chanteuse Kandy Guira, who brings fierceness and beauty to ‘Sisters’. On the album’s mighty concluding track, Power, a collective of 16 multi-generational vocalists spanning Africa, Europe and Latin America herald a collaborative future where there is true equality.

“The musical fusion that we find in this album is unique,” enthuses Niariu. “We are singers with different voices, and our own unique styles. We sing in many different languages, as well. I think the challenge was to go out of our comfort zone by writing on instrumentals we were not necessarily used to —for instance, fusions of electronic sounds, African traditional sounds, reggae elements, and hip-hop elements— and bring to it a message, a melody, a language that sounds like us. I think this is what allows our project to transcend cultures, generations and backgrounds. It’s more than just words or just sound, it’s a deeper experience.”

Les Amazones have always been inclusive in their spirit of empowerment, but for the first time here, their music also features young male vocalists— in this case, Douranne (Boy) Fall and Magueye Diouk (Jon Grace) from Paris-based outfit Nyoko Bokbae, whose expressions elevate the sound of 21st-century diaspora, and who team up with Niariu (and celebrate their own female elders) on Heavy. As Ruffino points out, this is a natural progression:

“The new generations are rising against traditions, especially in Africa,” says Ruffino. “So, you have many young men in women’s right associations, going door to door to inform the youngest. So it’s completely fair to have them on board with us. Nyoko Bokbae are incredible; the messages they have are strong and energizing.”

And Amazones Power is aptly named, of course:

Power means everything,” says Ruffino, emphatically. “We are all coming together to change the rules that have been established for centuries. Women are taking over the world, you know! With this album, we are breaking the code, by talking about violence against women and young girls, genital mutilation, forced marriage, gender equality. We want to make our sisters and mothers understand that it’s up to us what makes us happy and fulfilled.”

“Older generations of women did their best to survive and change things, by making sure the next generations would have even more tools to evolve as women,” says Niariu. “Now the new generations refuse to be sacrificed; they’re here to break the cycle of pain and of the image of ‘the strong woman who has to be quiet and carry all the burdens. We are amazing and powerful, and every time that society tries to make us feel otherwise, we will be loud and unapologetic. It’s a way of saying that we have the power within us. Once we’re fully conscious of this, deep transformations can happen.”

WORDs by Arwa Haider

Arwa Haider is a London-based, Baghdad-born journalist who is currently Music Editor at national UK newspaper Metro, and who has covered music and pop culture forThe Times, The Independent, The Guardian, NME, and many other publications.

Les Amazones d'Afrique - Amazones Power (Official Video)

Further Listening

  • 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.
  • The Journey

    Maryam Mursal

    Released 16 March 1998

    The radiant Somalian diva Maryam Mursal lifts off with this highly charged album of vibrant pop songs. The album title refers to the journey taken by the singer and her five children when they underwent a seven-month odyssey to escape the trials and tribulations of their native Somalia.

Further reading

Private: Amazones Power: Track by Track

We take a look at the lyrics and meaning of the songs on Les Amazones d'Afrique's second album.

Track of the Day: ‘Heavy’ by Les Amazones d’Afrique

Les Amazones d'Afrique's new single introduces the band's new members: Niariu, Boy Fall & Jon Grace.

18 voices on the new album by Les Amazones d’Afrique

Amazones Power, their second album, features voices from Africa and the diaspora