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Mali: the return of the queen, Oumou Sangaré

The sincere diva Malian Oumou Sangaré proves with a refreshing new album, Mogoya, that she still reigns over African music. She also confirms her ability as a businesswoman and communicator.

Without her make-up and her jewels, she seems unarmed. On 21 June, Oumou Sangaré , in his box at the Olympia, a mythical Parisian concert hall, long before going on stage, is gauged in front of a huge mirror. A sovereign who had not yet seized her crown and scepter. Only thin furrows beneath her eyes betray her age, that she is one of the few African stars not to hide: 49 years. But the look, the bearing of the head, the silhouette are those of a young girl. His music too.

His album Mogoya, released in May, six years after his previous , Bi Furu, and defended on European stages, could be that of a new comet electro. On the suggestion of her French producer Laurent Bizot, she trusted the co-production of her album to the collective Albert, three small princes of the French touch who have already jostled the sound of Françoise Hardy, Beck, Franz Ferdinand or Charlotte Gainsbourg.

For this new project, she made an infidelity to the label World Circuit, very marked "musics of the world", which has been following her for twenty years, using the No Format! The wassoulou style that made it known is still present throughout the n'goni, a kind of lute typical of traditional Malian music.

His way of singing also remains unchanged. But synthetic tablecloths now mix with the Sangaré sound. "I did this for the African youth," she says. I received so many letters from young people telling me that they wanted to dance on Oumou in discotheque and were frustrated ... "The boss often speaks of herself in the third person, you have to get used to it.

Revealed at the age of 5

In the mirror, one looks at the one that was nicknamed the Tina Turner of Mali. With her lips painted black, her nostrils pierced, her top molding zebra with plunging neckline, the divine remains scandalous. She is not going to start now to do like everyone else, she was revealed at only 5 years in a competition between kindergartens.

"When we won and were asked to play [in front of an audience of 3,000 at the omnisports stadium in Bamako], I fled backstage," she recalls. My mother ran behind me to catch up with me. I was so small that I was put on a table so I could sing. "

His first album, Moussoulou, recorded at the age of 18 on the Syllart label, which revealed the greatest African voices, is an immediate cardboard: more than 100,000 cassettes would have been sold in a week in Mali.

In the course of a discography a little too quickly labeled "musics of the world", it connects the audacious collaborations: with the jazz and funk musicians Pee Wee Ellis and electro Nitin Sawhney, the flutist Magic Malik, the afrobeat drummer Tony Allen ... One finds moreover on his last opus. Its success and aura remain intact. The French journalists, in prostration, have consecrated it "greater of the African singers".

An experienced entrepreneur

In the box of the Olympia, embedded in an armchair, a solid fellow pianote on his laptop. This is the boss of a car rental agency. When he knew that the diva was landing in Paris at five in the morning, he made a phone call to her: "Mom Oumou, I do not want you to drive in any car. I'm sending you somebody. "

A Porsche Cayenne was waiting for the singer at the airport. "That's the least I could do," says the entrepreneur. She is the best ambassador of Malian success. "

Virtuoso of marketing, Oumou Sangaré has literally become a brand. For nearly ten years, it has given its name, " Oum Sang ", to 4x4 of Chinese manufacture, "today always available to order". It also sells imported Oum Sang rice, but it is "under discussion to exploit 3,000 ha of land and produce it directly in Mali".

Is not it a bit narcissistic to sell on his name? "When I started my career, I realized that in the markets of Bamako, the sellers, in order to sell their stock more easily, pretended that their fruits and vegetables came from my father's field! It made me think. "

It also owns a hotel, Wassulu, in Bamako, and about forty bungalows built in its region to accompany the launch of a festival around the wassoulou music. The project that is most important to him? A farm of 10 ha bordering the Niger river. On the social networks, she did not hesitate to show herself in hand, bent in two to work the land.

"Many women send me messages telling me they want to start a business like me and they do not have the money to invest. But even when there is nothing, there remains what nature has given us. It is also a solution not to depend on men. Her last sentence echoes all the more strongly when one knows that she was abandoned as a child by her father.

An example for her sisters

The Amazon, the FAO's (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) ambassador since 2003, is fighting on all fronts. Particularly on those which allow to "liberate" the African woman from painful traditions: excision, forced marriage, polygamy ...

In her new album, she plays the nail with Kamelemba , a song to warn her "little sisters" to be wary of dragers who give false hopes. And in another title, Djoukourou , she praises the strong woman, on whom a husband can lean.

Oumou Sangaré, she seems more than strong: invincible. The insults and calumnies she suffered have, she says, hardened.

"It was said that I was drugging myself, that I was doing pornography ... I have gone through a thousand trials. In any case, artists are often seen as scoundrels, and women in particular as easy girls. But I do not care about gossip. I am here to encourage the African woman, and nothing will discourage me. I want to be an example to all my sisters, and I am willing to pay the price. "

One knocks at the door of the box. The makeup artist enters, we must give way. Several hours later, when she finally appeared on the stage of the Olympia under her armor of jewels, wrapped in a dress of basin incrusted with bogolan, Queen Oumou is ready to conquer.