CIIS Public Programs & Performances and Amoeba Music present singer/songwriter Rokia Traore on Friday, November 22nd at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco.
It all started with a sound inside Rokia Traore's head. One of the most adventurous singer/songwriters in Africa knew that she wanted to create a musical style "more modern, but still African, something more blues and rock than my folk guitar." Then she heard an old Gretsch, the classic electric guitar beloved by American rockabilly bands back in the fifties and sixties, and played by artists from Chet Atkins to George Harrison. That was the sound she had been looking for, and it has helped bring a fresh and startling new dimension to her exquisite and adventurous songs.
The daughter of a Malian diplomat posted to the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, Traore studied in Brussels and worked in a rap group, before deciding to go back to Mali to create the music she wanted, which was "not pop, not jazz, not classical, but something contemporary with traditional instruments."
She survived by washing dishes, cooking in a restaurant, and working as a housekeeper, as she found musicians for her new songs backed by her own acoustic guitar, the West African n'goni, and the balafon. She became a success back in Europe, where she was hailed as the "African Discovery of 1997" after performing at the Angouleme Festival in France. Recording contracts and international tours followed, as Rokia continued to develop her musical ideas and delight audiences around the world.