Sing Out, Sister

HERITAGE: Traoré grew up listening to griots, Joe Cocker, Ella Fitzgerald and Dire Straits

"An album is a wall to penetrate," says Malian singer Rokia Traoré, immediately establishing herself as a marketing exec's nightmare. The wall called Bowmboï, Traoré's third CD, is built from sounds unfamiliar to Western ears and lyrics sung only in her native Bamana, even though she's also proficient in English, French, German and Italian. "I asked myself if it wouldn't be better to do something easier," she says. "Maybe if you do something a little pop, it's easier to promote. I had a choice. But I prefer this." Thank goodness. Bowmboï is mesmerizing, casting its spell with virtuoso...

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