Tag Archives: Oumou Sangaré

Artist Profiles: Oumou Sangare

Oumou Sangare – Photo by Ed Alcock

Oumou Sangare was born in Bamako in 1968, to parents who had immigrated to Mali’s capital city from the region south of the Niger river known as Wassulu. Her mother, Aminata Daikhite, was also a vocalist, who, like most women of her generation, had to share her husband with two other wives. This influential experience of polygamy and its potential for causing pain and suffering made a deep impression on the young girl.

Oumou’s mother encouraged her to develop her talents as a singer, whispering to her terrified daughter just before she took the stage of Bamako’s Stade des Omnisports for her first public appearance at the tender age of six, “Sing like you’re at home in the kitchen”. After a period as a member of The National Ensemble of Mali, the training ground for many of the country’s top musicians, Oumou was asked by Super Djata Band veteran Bamba Dambele to accompany his traditional percussion troupe Djoliba in 1986 on a tour of Europe. Following this brief introduction to the musician’s life, Oumou returned home with the determination to form her own group and form her own sound based on the styles and traditions of her ancestral homeland, Wassulu.

For reasons which even Oumou herself is hard pressed to explain, the Wassulu region, has produced a remarkable number of great women singers since Mali gained its independence in the early 1960s.

She regularly name checks pioneering figures like Coumba Sidibe, Sali Sidibe and Flan Saran as important influences, who together with many others forged a distinct style of music based on local dances and rhythms like the didai, the bari, the sigui and above all the sogonihun, a traditional masked dance performed mainly by young girls at harvest time. This unique style which came to be known as ‘wassulu’, combines the jembe drum and karyaing (“scraper”), propelled rhythms of the regional traditional dances with the jittery yet funky sound of the kamale ngoni (literally “young man’s harp”), an instrument which has played a key role in the development of wassulu. Adapted by the youth of Yanfolila in the heart of Wassulu from the donsongoni, an ancient harp used in rituals by the wassouloU forest hunters, the kamalengoni in many ways symbolizes youth.

Shortly after her return from Europe, Oumou started working with acclaimed arranger Amadou Ba Guindo. Together with a fine group of musicians including Boubacar Diallo on guitar and Aliou Traore on violin, Oumou and Amadou Ba set about constructing a tight and highly individual sound, aiming for something rooted in tradition and yet unique and modern at the same time.

Oumou replaced the traditional horse-hair fiddle or soku with a modem violin which has not been used by in a wassulu lineup before and brought in the calabash or fie as a percussion instrument. After two years of hard work and experimentation, the group was offered a recording session, Oumou and company traveled to Abidjan in The Ivory Coast and in seven days at the legendary JBZ studios they recorded Moussolou, a collection of six original Oumou compositions.

Moussolou (Women) is a classic of modem African pop. In its own way, it represented something of a revolution in the way African music is recorded and produced. With their crystal clear and beautifully sparse sound based on traditional and mainly acoustic instruments, Oumou and Amadou Ba had concocted a viable alternative to what had previously been perceived as the only options: tacky syth’n’drum machine driven ‘modernity’ or unlistenable low-fi DIY trad ‘obscurity’.

Oumou’s approach to her music also echoed the deeper struggle of her peer group for a cultural identity in which tradition is not thrown in the bin, but modernized with its essential character and strength intact. Oumou herself stresses the fact that although she speaks out against the abuses of traditional social customs such a polygamy, she herself is not antitradition. “Just look at the clothes I wear,” she says “aren’t they traditional!”

While the incredible success of Moussolou put Oumou firmly en the West African map, it was only after a fortuitous introduction by the legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure in 1991 that UK label World Circuit picked up the rights for the album outside Africa and began to develop Oumou’s international career. “Moussolou” was given a universally positive reception on its worldwide release and Oumou, pen and inspiration never at rest, set about working on songs for her second album “Ko Sira” (“Marriage Today”) recorded in Berlin and released on World Circuit in 1993. “Ko Sira” includes “Saa Magni”, a moving tribute to the memory of Amadou Ba who died in a car crash. “Death struck down Amadou Ba Guindo,” she sings, “death spares no creature, nothing can stop it, not even fame.”

With Ko Sira, Oumou notched up her second best-selling album and consolidated her fame. Back home politicians rushed to associate themselves with her perceptive views on contemporary morality but Oumou remains defiantly non-aligned. She received numerous awards in Mali and Ko Sira was voted European World Music album of the Year (1993).

Despite the arrival of her first child she set out on grueling tour schedules in Africa and Europe and in 1994 she paid her second visit to the USA as part of the Africa Pete package tour, performing to delighted audiences a t Summer Stage in New York’s Central Park. For her third album Worotan (Ten Kola Nuts..-i.e….the traditional bride-price in Mali) released in 1996, Oumou worked with Fee Wee Ellis, James Brown’s erstwhile hornman and stalwart of the “Horny Horns”, who made an enthusiastic yet respectfully controlled contribution to the Sangare sound. Nitin Sawhney, the British Asian guitar wizard also made an important contribution to the album, especially on the final song, “Djorolen”, one of Ournou’s most moving compositions to date.

Perhaps the core reason for Wassulu’s national and later international popularity was that it offered people, especially young people, a welcome alternative to the ancient and predominant Malian tradition of the jalis, or praise singers. Whereas the jalis sing the praises of important men and the glory of their ancestors, Wassulu singers tackle everyday concerns in their songs. Whereas the jalis direct their praise at a particular individual (usually a pillar of society and community) hoping for a handsome reward, Wassulu singers sing for everyone with no particular financial kick-back in mind.

In October 2003 Oumou Sangare, was appointed Ambassadress of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)* at a ceremony in Rome. Her appointment as Ambassadress forms part of the FAO’s ‘struggle against famine.’ This appointment means a great deal to Oumou Sangare who has throughout her career been committed to addressing the inequalities faced by millions of Africans and of Women in particular. Thanks to her international fame and influence on her public, Oumou was been given the responsibility of making the public aware of the vast problems that Africa faces through her concerts and press conferences.

In 2017, Oumou released Mogoya, her first album of new material in eight years. The album featured powerful messages of empowerment and perseverance for African women, and addressing serious social issues such as depression and suicide. While retaining signature elements of her traditional Wassulu sound, this album took a different direction. Omou teamed up with an all-new French production team, A.L.B.E.R.T. (Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni, and Vincent Taeger) known for their work with Beck, Air, and Franz Ferdinand.

[Partially adapted from an original text by Andy Morgan]


Moussolou (World Circuit Records, 1991)
Bi Furu (1993)
Ko Sira (World Circuit Records, 1993)
Denw Mali (K7 SA, 1996)
Worotan (World Circuit Records, 1996)
Laban ‎(2001)
Non Stop (2003)
Seya (World Circuit Records, 2009)
Mogoya (No Format, 2017)
Mogoya Remixed (Nø Førmat!, 2018)


Significant Music Festival Colours of Ostrava 2018

The annual music festival Colours of Ostrava will take place July 18-21, 2018 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

The lineup this year includes Oumou Sangare, Cheikh Lô, Dobet Gnahoré, Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita, Ziggy Marley, Calexico, Dirtmusic, Radio cos, Debashish Bhattacharya, BraAgas and many more.

Colours of Ostrava is a multi-genre music festival organised annually in Ostrava since 2002. The festival features international acts, including world music artists.

More at www.colours.cz


WOMAD Cáceres Announces Additional Acts, Including Oumou Sangaré

World music festival WOMAD Cáceres will be celebrating its 27th edition from Thursday, May 10 through Sunday, May 13, 2018. In addition to previously announced artists chk chk chk (United States), Canal de Timbiquí (Colombia) and The Gramophone Allstars Big Band (Spain), WOMAD Cáceres has revealed four additional acts: Oumou Sangaré (Mali), Red Baraat (United States), Elemotho Gaalelekwe (Namibia) and Papaya (Spain).

WOMAD Cáceres is held in historic Cáceres in western Spain. The festival is supported by the Junta de Extremadura (regional government), the Diputación de Cáceres (provincial government) and the City Council of Caceres through the Gran Teatro Consortium. In addition to concerts, the program includes a wide variety of activities: cinema, poetry, gastronomy, crafts, exhibitions, etc.

Oumou Sangaré, the voice of African women

Stylish, elegant, determined and charismatic, with a moving and powerful voice, Malian singer Oumou Sangaré has become a symbol for African femininity and a reference for millions of women. Throughout her long career she has used her songs to denounce without fear the position of women in Mali and to oppose polygamy, child marriage and a system that defines a “good wife” as a submissive woman. “Since I was a child, I promised myself that one day I would shout to the world about this problem,” she asserts. “Women have difficulties in Africa, we have no voice, our husbands speak for us,” she continues. “My role is to speak directly with women through my songs, giving them an example and showing them that they can make their own decisions,” she adds.

Oumou Sangaré will present her latest album, Mogoya along with some of her classics.

Elemotho Gaalelekwe, the new sound of the Kalahari

Elemotho Gaalelekwe – Photo by Silvia Sala

Namibian musician Elemotho Gaalelekwe acknowledges that his songs are inspired by life, family, childhood in the Kalahari, pain or tribulations, because music is also everywhere, in the songs of birds or in the struggle for survival in the wilderness. He defines himself as a modern nomad influenced by the stories of his grandmother – perhaps the most important person in his life – and by the traditional music Setswana, as well as South African pop and the sounds of Zimbabwe, reggae, jazz, rock and R & B.

Elemotho Gaalelekwe will present his fourth studio album, Beautiful World, which he says is like the soundtrack of a new dawn: positive, hopeful, free and optimistic. In Spain he has collaborated with Los Delinqüentes and the duo Fetén Fetén. Two of his songs, La vida and Neo, appear in the 2nd season of Grace & Frankie of Netflix.

American band Red Baraat combines bhangra, funk and hip hop. Spanish band Papaya features Yanara Espinoza, Miguel Aguas and Sebastián Litmanovich. They perform pop with exotic rhythms and party sounds.

More information: womad.org/festival/womad-caceres/

headline photo: Oumou Sangaré by Benoit Peverelli


Oumou Sangaré to Perform at Celtic Connections 2018

Oumou Sangare – Photo by Benoit Peverelli


Acclaimed Malian vocalist Oumou Sangaré is set to perform at Celtic connections festival on January 30, 2018.

Sangaré returned from an 8-year recording respite in 2017 when she released her album Mogoya. The new album includes French production trio A.l.b.e.r.t. and celebrated Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. Mogoya combines traditional Wassulu roots with vibrant rock, funk, soul, and dance beats.


Oumou Sangaré – Mogoya


Oumou Sangaré and Solo & Indrė
Tuesday. January 30
7:30 p.m.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Main Auditorium
More information at /www.celticconnections.com


WOMEX 2017 Came to a Close in Katowice Today

Oumou Sangaré receives the WOMEX 2017 Artist Award from Bintou Simporé – Photo by Yannis Psathas

World Music Expo WOMEX 2017 concluded today, Sunday, October 29, with a performance by Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, who received this year’s WOMEX Artist Award. The concert was part of a closing ceremony in Katowice’s grand concert hall NOSPR that also honored WOMEX 2017 Award winners Petr Dorůžka (Professional Excellence Award) and Glitterbeat (WOMEX Label Award).

Attendance this year encompassed 2600 professionals (including 303 performing artists) from 90 countries representing 1400 companies.

WOMEX 2018 will take place October 24 – 28 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain.


Malian Vocalist Oumou Sangaré to be Presented 2017 WOMEX Artist Award

Oumou Sangare – Photo by Ed Alcock

Malian vocalist and advocate Oumou Sangaré is the winner of the WOMEX 2017 Artist Award. The acclaimed singer will perform as part of the Showcase Festival and Professionals’ Meeting in Katowice, Poland this October.

This award is for all African women and people from all of Africa. They are the ones who have encouraged me to keep singing and writing songs. I am so glad and honored to receive this award from WOMEX, one of the festivals that always believed in my music, and this is really the icing on the cake of my career. Thank you!” Oumou Sangaré, August 2017

The award honors Oumou Sangaré’s dedication to activism and advocacy for the underprivileged in Mali and abroad, her innovative changes to Wassulu music and her longevity as an internationally-cherished star.


Thrilling Oumou Sangaré with a Modern Twist

Oumou Sangaré – Mogoya (No Format!, 2017)

After nearly 10 years since she recorded her last album, the great world music star Oumou Sangaré has a new album titled Mogoya. Oumou is Mali’s finest female and a leading figure in African and world music. She’s also a songwriter who writes most of her material.

Mogoya is a fabulous recording that combines Malian tradition with western trip hop modernity along with some good humor.

Oumou invited trailblazing Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, one of the pioneers of Afrobeat, who adds his memorable signature drum style on “Yere Faga,” a song that provides support to individuals suffering from depression.



The lineup includes Oumou Sangaré on vocals; Toni Allen on drums; Kandy Guira on backing vocals; Guimba Kouyaté on guitar; Benogo Diakité on kamele ngoni; and French production collective A.L.B.E.R.T. (Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni and Vincent Taeger), who added cutting edge electronic keyboards and other instruments tastefully.



Mogoya is an excellent, beautifully-crafted album by Oumou Sangaré, one of the greatest vocalists in Africa. It was well worth the wait.

Buy Mogoya

Buy Mogoya in Europe


Oumou Sangaré at the Top of the June 2017 Transglobal World Music Chart

Mogoya (Nø Førmat), the new recording by Malian world music star Oumou Sangaré is the number 1 album this month at the Transglobal World Music Chart.

Oumou Sangaré combines tradition with modernity by using Malian instruments such as the kamele n’goni (harp), karignan (metal scraper) and calabash mixed with electric guitar, bass, keyboards and synthesizres. Afrobeat legend, drummer Tony Allen is one of the guests featured in Mogoya.

For a complete list go to www.transglobalwmc.com


Strange Fruit Expressions

Fabrizio Cassol – Strange Fruit (Outhere Music/Instinct Collection, 2017)

Strange Fruit is a cross-genre project developed by Belgian saxophonist and composer Fabrizio Cassol, who has a background in classical and jazz music. Strange Fruit, however, is definitely much closer to world music. The album features one of the stars of Malian music, Oumou Sangare, as well as other well-known vocalists.

Throughout Strange Fruit, Fabrizio Cassol and his collaborators travel through various musical genres. The album opens with a fabulous rhythmic piece titled” Didadi Horns” featuring the vocals and spectacular tamani (talking drums) of Baba Sissoko and the equally remarkable sound of the soku one-string Wassulu fiddle. This piece also features electric guitar and bass along with a powerful jazz brass section that brings it close to Afrobeat.

Oumou Sangare appears on track 2, “Soukora” joined by La Choraline Choir, superb ethereal electric guitar by Manu Codjia, Babao Sissoko’s ngoni along with Fabrizio Cassol’s reverberating saxophone and more of the soku fiddle.



The pace changes drastically on track 3, “Strange Fruit,” featuring soprano Claron McFadden accompanied by Eric Legnini on piano. It has an African American spiritual flavor.

Another unexpected turn appears on track 4, “Strange Fruits,” that features La Choraline Choir mixing Bach and Billy Holiday. On “Strange Fruits,” classical, jazz, and Malian sounds come together. Electric bassist Michel Hatzigeorgiou gets an opportunity to showcase his talent on this track.

Track 5, “If Jesus” has a folk-blues feel. It features American soprano Melissa Givens accompanied by Hammond organ and an electric band.

“I Can’t Sleep Tonight” features the soulful vocals of Marie Daulne (Zap Mama) along with La Choraline Choir. This song has some of the finest vocal interactions in the album.

The spiritual side of the album return on “Sehet Jesus”, track 7, featuring a jazz combo accompanying the remarkable vocals of Claron McFadden.

Oumou Sangare’s unmistakable vocals return on track 8, “On Les enfants de la rue” , a funk jazz piece that also features La Choraline.

Track 9, “Choeurs Pygmees” is a great a cappella vocal piece partially inspired by pygmy vocals, featuring remarkable interplay between Marie Daulne and Kezia Daulne along with La Choraline.

“Some Days: (track 10) is the longest composition on the album. This jazz song features Belgian male vocalist David Linx and Claron McFadden. Near the end, this piece turns quite adventurous venturing into exciting jazz-rock territory.

With track 11, “Farka” the album’s vibe turns back to world music led by Diely Moussa Kouyaté’s beautiful guitar, Magic Malik’s flute and Baba Sissoko’s vocals supported by a meaty brass section.



The album concludes with a laid back acoustic Malian piece featuring Diely Moussa Kouyaté’s acoustic guitar and something that sounds like a kora although it doesn’t appear in the credits.

This album came out originally on the Blue Note label in 2012.

Strange Fruit is an impressive, beautifully-arranged album that brings together a multi-ethnic cast of talented jazz, classical, spiritual and world music artists.

Buy Strange Fruit