Paris, France – Malian musician Idrissa Soumaoro has won the
2004 Radio France International (RFI) World Music Award.
The musical credentials
of Idrissa Soumaoro are impeccable. Having learned his trade with Les
Ambassadeurs with Salif Keita in Bamako, he has been a force within Malian music
for a number of years, receiving the Knight of the National order of Mali in
recognition of his contribution to Malian culture and music. This came to the
notice of famed African producer, Ibrahim Sylla (Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Ismael
Lo), who has taken Idrissa and created the album Köte, which came out this year. Over the past thirty years and more, Idrissa has taught music to the blind and
former pupils of his include the famous Malian duo Amadou & Mariam. Idrissa, a
former member of Les Ambassadeurs (where he shared the limelight with Salif
Keita), now has his own group, Les Compagnons. Idrissa may be renowned for his
rectitude and honesty, but this does not stop him wielding his own powerful
brand of satire in his work. His album, Köte, on Wrasse Records,
distributed by Caroline in the US, features an interesting mix of blues and
traditional Malian sounds.
Idrissa is an amazing person, by day he teaches music to visually handicapped
children and teaches them to read through the use of braille; in the evenings he
then plays his music rooted in the blues.
France’s annual RFI World Music Award has unearthed up-and-coming talents from
Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean region. The majority of past winners
– who include Rokia Traoré, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Didier Awadi and blind Malian duo
Amadou & Mariam – have gone on to enjoy successful international careers.
The finalists along with Idrissa were Senegalese fusion maestro Abdou Guité
Seck and the Guinean group Ba Cissoko. A jury, chaired by last year’s winner
Rokia Traoré, announced their verdict this week after a live show at the French
Cultural Centre in Bamako on Thursday, 2 December.