Rokia Traoré's "Beautiful Africa" Released in Europe, Earns Five Stars in Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré’s new album, Beautiful Africa, following last week's well-received release in France, is out this week in the UK, the rest of Europe, and Canada, with the US release to follow at a later date. To download Beautiful Africa in those countries, head to iTunes now. The record was produced by English musician John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Sparklehorse) and recorded at Toybox Studios in Bristol, UK. Its lyrics are sung in the Malian–born Traoré’s native languages of French and Bambara, as well as some English.
The album has been met with great critical acclaim, earning perfect five-star reviews from the Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, and Financial Times.
Indeed, the Guardian gives a perfect five stars to this new album from "Africa's most inventive singer-songwriter." The album "succeeds because of the sheer quality of her singing," writes reviewer Robin Denselow, "and the thoughtful, varied songs from the light and then furious Kouma to Mélancholie, a highly personal reflection on sadness and solitude." Read the five-star review at guardian.co.uk. Traoré recently spoke with the Guardian's Caspar Llewellyn Smith for a feature article also available at guardian.co.uk.
The album earns five stars from the Observer as well. "That this fifth outing embraces rock is no shock given her guitar playing (she grew up a Dire Straits fan)," writes reviewer Neil Spencer, "but it's a startling record nonetheless, with producer John Parish (of PJ Harvey reknown) pitching Traoré's agile voice against restless guitars and Seb Rochford's mercurial drumming ... She remains a real original." Read that review at guardian.co.uk as well.
The Daily Telegraph, in its five-star review, says: "‘The tone is reflective, the traditionally influenced melodies understated, enhancing Traoré’s claim to be Africa’s most interesting and genuinely experimental contemporary musician."
The Financial Times calls it "a tight, punchy set of song with spacious rock dynamics ... Amid the polyrhythms, Traoré sings close and intimate."
MusicOMH gives this "fine album" four-and-a-half out of five stars, describing it as "an ambitious work that ... works its magic through the intensity of the musicianship behind it, through the nuanced inflections of Traoré’s distinctive, haunting voice and through the engaging power of rhythm and groove."
The List calls Beautiful Africa "superb," giving it four stars, as do the Independent, Mojo, and Uncut. "Traoré’s sinuous voice sits at the centre of a hybrid maelstrom that combines the raw, earthy source of Malian rhythms with snarling rock guitars and pneumatic garage energy," says Uncut. "It’s the record fans of her explosive live shows always hoped she would make and a career highpoint."
Rokia Traoré launches an extensive European tour with a series of concerts in France and Switzerland, including a three-night residency at Le Petit Bain in Paris next week. For additional details, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour. In advance of the tour, Traoré recorded an intimate live performance of the album track Ka Moun Kè accompanied by Jason Singh in the Great Hall of le Trianon in Paris. Watch it here:
Traoré was the guest on Radio France's Vinyl Radio. She walked through the Radio France music vaults comprising more than 450,000 vinyl records, joining hosts Soro Solo and Vladimir Cagnolari. They pick out and listen to a few records of import for Traoré and discuss the importance of these artists in her life and career, from Ali Farka Touré to Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin. She also performs a couple of songs of her own. You can watch the video, in French with English subtitles, here: