Oumou Sangaré, the dynamic queen of Wassoulou song and dance, has launched her her fifth album, Mogoya. The tracks are compelling in every sense of the word–the lyrics testify to the strength of African women and the beats pull you into spontaneous outbursts of dance. Oumou, known in her native Mali and internationally as the Songbird of Wassoulou, is an entrepreneur, a feminist, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and a Grammy award winning artist.
Oumou, “made her name with declarations of disenchantment about the way women were marginalised in Mali – the property of men who could buy them for a handful of nuts,” notes Mojo. Her lyrics dive into tough territory: she sings about betrayal, jealousy, and despair with an indomitable spirit representative of the resilience and courage of African women. Oumou’s advocacy efforts, her work to make women more autonomous and active in entrepreneurial efforts reinforce the meaning of her songs. She owns and operates the Wassoulou Hotel in Mali, where she often hosts musical gigs. “Music is in me all the time,” declares Oumou, “twenty-four hours a day!”
As to the album itself, it takes a different direction from Oumou’s past work, incorporating non-traditional instruments. Speaking to RFI Musique, Oumou remarks that she aimed for a “very modern direction that does not distort the traditional sound of Wassoulou… a modern and dancing sound that respects my culture and my traditions.” To achieve such a sound, she joined forces with Andress Unge in Stockholm and by the French production collective A.l.b.e.r.t., a group renowned for their cultural fusion techniques.
The album itself achieves a tone that matches the emotive range of the lyrics. The tension and temptation to despair in Yere Faga rings through steel drums, but by the end of the track, the only right response seems to be unfettered, joyous dancing in the face of trials. That is what makes Oumou’s songs so compelling. Speaking about the motivation for Yere Faga, Oumou says; “You know, success is heavy. There have been times where I’ve really had to rely on having a strong character to survive. I wrote ‘Yere Faga’ to give an example to everyone and to say that in life you have to be strong. Everybody will encounter some problem one day or another. But you have to be stronger than the problem so you can go beyond it.”
Later in the album, Mali Niale is more lyrical, enveloping the listener in sensuous guitars, and soft clapping in the background. In Djoukourou, Oumou’s soulful lyrics are accented with a fair amount of funk, and the synthesis of sounds gives way to a wild electric guitar riff midway. The title track, Mogoya has a slow bluesy tone, with an almost melancholy beat, but anchored by a steady bass and the sonorous vocals of Oumou. With its mesmerising vocals, irresistible beats, and soulful social justice commentary, Mogoya is an album to continually return to for strength and celebration.
UK FESTIVAL DATES
25 June West Holt Stage, Glastonbury Festival
16 July LONDON Citadel
28 July WILTSHIRE WOMAD
27 August NORTHAMPTONSHIRE Shambala