Oumou Sangaré Biography

1968, Bamako, Mali. One of the new generation of female voices in Malian music, Sangaré made her first public appearance at the age of six at the Omnisports Stadium Hall in Bamako, encouraged by her mother, a sogoninkun singer who performed at weddings and rituals. She continued to sing through the rest of her adolescence and in 1986 she was recruited to the Malian traditional group Djoliba Percussions for their European tour (which included a celebrated performance in London). She made her solo recorded debut in 1989 after travelling to Abidjan. There she worked with producer/promoter Ibrahima Sylla at his JBZ studio, producing the cassette album Djama Kaissoumou. Sales of 200, 000 copies attested to her dramatic arrival on the Malian music scene, though many of these came from bootleg sales for which she received no recompense. Lyrics addressed topics including love, work, tradition and the role of women in West African society. The most popular track from the sessions, ‘Diaraby Nene (Love Fever)’, became a major domestic hit. The album was eventually given a European release (as Moussoulou) via World Circuit Records in 1990, whose enthusiasm for the new artist was rewarded with a significant critical and sales response. The good impressions were confirmed with the release of the follow-up collection, Ko Sira, which again addressed feminist themes (attacking, in particular, polygamy and enforced marriages for young African women) in a direct, uncomplicated but never overbearing manner (though some critics mistook the sarcasm of songs such as ‘Sigi Kurni’). The music was conducted in a style that had quickly become readily identifiable as her own, with vocals accompanied by understated electric guitar and bass, plus kamalengoni (six-stringed harp). She appeared on Later With Jools Holland before releasing a further album in 1996 which featured powerful songs such as ‘Sabu’, a narrative about a hunter’s struggle with forest demon ‘the blisi’, with accompaniment from kamalengoni player Kassim Sidibe. Other songs featured James Brown’s saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis (co-author of ‘Cold Sweat’).

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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