Interview with Mauritanian Griot Malouma

Malouma
Malouma

Mauritanian singer Malouma will be performing  this week at the Førde Folk Music Festival, on Friday, July 9th at  15.30 at Festsalen, Førdehuset. World Music Central had the opportunity to interview Malouma before the event.

What drew you to music and what are your musical essentials, those songs or performers that you draw from?

I grew up in an artistic family artistic. My father and mother were artists. I felt deeply that I was an artist since I was young. Many artist in blues inspired me , but my really inspiration came from my father Moctar ould Meidah. I listened to his music and to his voice to compose music.

Coming from a griot family, known for their musical skills and poetry, and you yourself performing at the age of 12, what musical aspirations did you have for yourself as a young girl? How did the responsibility to marry as a young woman change those musical aspirations?

My father was my inspiration. Since I was young I used to listen to traditional music. I wanted something new for the young people. I wanted to do something with modern instruments. I started to have my own imagination when I was 16 years old and at that time I had my own band.

You are seen as a champion of women’s rights and a singer of the people in Mauritania. Do you think it is easier to change opinion through music than through ordinary channels?

I am sure that the faster way to bring some message and new opinion is the music way above all when music is good We can change mentalities through music but music must have a good grove; the message clear and colorful and the artist must be charismatic.

With the theme of this year’s Førde Folk Music Festival being freedom and oppression, what do you hope to convey to music fans beyond the simple joy of performing?

They will see a woman draped in her veil (melafa) singing in a modern way.

Possessing the ability to reinterpret and reinvent traditional Mauritanian music often utilizing blues for musical expression, what is it about the blues medium that works so well with traditional Mauritanian music? What is it about the blues form that moves you musically?

When we want to improve our traditional music the blues comes naturally. If you listen to our traditional music you will find that it’s blues (voice or  pentatonic scales). So it’s natural. When we practice traditional music with modern instruments, the blues comes naturally. I really appreciate Aretha Franklin.

What music are you currently listening to?

I listen to all, particularly instrumental music (jazz, symphony) or some times a cappella music.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with our readers?

It will be my first time in Norway. I really enjoy the opportunity to perform there and to be a new positive discovery for them.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with who would that be?

Babyface.

I interviewed the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and asked what song was he completely addicted to – the one song that he will sing along with every time – and he told me his song was “One Love” by Bob Marley. What is your one song?

‘I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You’ by Aretha Franklin.

Malouma recordings available: Dunya, Nour, Desert of Eden

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