Meet Rokia Koné: ‘the Rose of Bamako’


The latest single to be released from Les Amazone d’Afrique‘s critically acclaimed album République Amazone is ‘Mansa Soyari’. The song and its video feature the outstanding Malian singer, Rokia Koné, whose powerful, distinctive voice will stop you in your tracks. Little known outside of her native country, this singer is one of the rising female stars emerging in West Africa.

‘Mansa Soyari’ is a song about women. About African women seizing opportunity. Women’s strength. Women’s freedom. Women fighting for education. Loosely translated as kingdom in movement, the song refers to an African queen from the past, when women held great power in Africa.

Rokia urges women to take more responsibility and not to stay in the shadows. Look to the powerful women in history who headed kingdoms, who led the way as activists and advocates for women’s rights – these women are an inspiration for today.

“To be a woman is an opportunity
Don’t stand shy
Don’t be in the shadow
The strength of women develops countries
We women fight for our girls
To go to school
To be a woman is a chance”
Rokia Koné, Mansa Soyari

The video was filmed in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and juxtaposes Rokia performing in a city nightclub, with her at home, surrounded by family members. In the club, she performs with wild abandon – giving her heart and soul to the song. At home, she is seated, dressed in traditional clothing, but still radiates the positivity of a young, modern African woman sending the message of equality and opportunity.

Rokia Koné grew up in the village of Dioro, a village some 100 km from Segou, Mali. She comes from a musical family where her singing talents were supervised by her uncle. Growing up in the cradle of the ancient kingdom of Bamanan, with its rich ancestral culture, Rokia was naturally influenced by the area’s predominant musical heritage, specifically “Bamananfoly”, one of the essential strains of Malian music.

Rokia Koné

Photo credit: Karen Paulina Biswell

Rokia’s musical career really began when, in 2008, she started singing with Alia Coulibaly. By 2012 Rokia had founded her own group, quickly monopolizing the cabarets and cultural centres Bamako. Affectionately nicknamed La Rose de Bamako (The Rose of Bamako), Rokia’s music is a mix of traditional Bamanandougou rhythms and modern sounds of blues, rock, jazz. She sings mainly in Bamanankan, the national language of Mali and spoken by the majority of Malians. Her lyrics speak powerfully of themes of unity, social cohesion and peace.

Today, Rokia Koné is an key member Les Amazone d’Afrique. Founded in 2016, Les Amazones d’Afrique is an all-female collective from West Africa, united in calling for equal rights and against violence towards women, strong in the belief that music can support social progress and trigger a change of attitude.

Les Amazones d’Afrique released their debut album in 2017 – both the message and the music achieving significant interest and glowing reviews. In fact, one of the album tracks, ‘La Dame et Ses Valises’ was listed by Barack Obama as one of his favourites of 2017. The album was produced by Liam Farrell aka Doctor L (Mbongwana Star, Tony Allen, Assassin) who supports the magnificent vocals with an exciting, kinetic production, powerful in its energy and groove. Whether undisputed stars or up and coming young artists, these are among the most admired musicians, and indeed the most influential women, in West Africa. Featured in the album are singers Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Angélique Kidjo, Rokia Koné, Mariam Doumbia, Nneka, Mariam Koné, Mouneïssa Tandina and Pamela Badjogo.

Forthcoming UK tour dates will see Rokia Koné take a lead, with fellow West African singers Awa Sangho, Mamani Keita, Kani Sidibe and Sam Rawit. Also look out for a previously unreleased track from Les Amazones d’Afrique ‘Mamani Blues’ featuring Mamani Keita on 18th May.

UK Tour Dates

May 22nd, Subscription Rooms, Stroud, UK

May 23rd, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Norwich, UK

May 24th, Brighton Festival, Brighton, UK

May 25th, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, UK

May 26th, Knockengorroch Festival, Knockengorroch, UK

May 27th, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

May 28th , Hay Festival, Hay-On-Wye, UK

 

Les Amazones d’Afrique’s debut album République Amazone is available with a 25% discount via the Real World Store throughout May and June using the voucher code realworld25. The vinyl album is also part of a Voices of Africa bundle offer alongside classic albums by Ayub Ogada, Geoffrey Oryema and Papa Wemba.

Les Amazones d'Afrique