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Rokia Traoré: Né So

rokiaRokia Traoré
Né So
(Nonesuch Records)

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Music has a power that transcends language, and Rokia Traoré’s Né So is proof of that. On her sixth solo album, Traoré has crafted a collection of songs that transcend borders. If you want to engage with the album on a sonic level, then the immediacy of her voice and her delicate guitar playing are a wonder. However, if you want to connect with her words, Nonesuch is generous enough to provide translation on their site. With the recent civil war in Mali, there is no shortage of political inspiration for this record. “Ilé” condemns anger, violence, and ignorance, while “Kènia” emphasizes the importance of logic, particularly when it comes to the moral behavior of politicians and other leaders. On “Kolokani,” named after Traoré’s hometown, her voice begins quietly, but gains strength as she vows to honor and remember Mali in her travels abroad. The title track, featuring an appearance from Devendra Banhart, is a powerful song that alternates between spoken word and singing. Here, Traoré documents the plight of so many refugees as she vows to come home. But to say that this is an album solely about Mali would be selling Traoré short. “Amour” features breathy vocals and hypnotic music, capturing the feeling of love even if you can only make out a few words. Her cover of “Strange Fruit,” kept in its original English, is bluesy and moving, a clever addition to her own writing. Traoré has found audiences far beyond the borders of her own home with her work, but going by this record, she deserves even more acclaim.

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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