Rokia Traoré

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Rokia Traoré
Traoré at INmusic festival in 2009.
Traoré at INmusic festival in 2009.
Background information
Born1974 (age 46–47)
Origin Kolokani, Mali
GenresWorld music, Electroacoustic, Afro-beat, Folk
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Years active1997–present

Rokia Traoré (born 1974) is a Malian-born singer, songwriter and guitarist.[1][2]

She made six albums between 1998 and 2016. Bowmboï (2003) won the Critics Award category at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in 2004[3] and Tchamantché (2008) won Victoires de la Musique World Music Album of the Year in 2009. Traoré won Best Artist in the Songlines Music Awards in 2009.[4]

She is a member of the Bambara ethnic group.


Traoré's father was a diplomat and she travelled widely in her youth. She visited Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France and Belgium and was exposed to a wide variety of influences. Her hometown of Kolokani is in the northwestern part of Mali's Koulikoro region.

While the Bambara have a tradition of griot performing at weddings, members of the nobility, such as Rokia, are discouraged from performing as musicians. Rokia attended lycée in Mali while her father was stationed in Brussels and started performing publicly as a university student in Bamako. She plays acoustic guitar as well as sings, and uses vocal harmonies in her arrangements which are rare in Malian music. She also plays ngoni (lute) and balafon.

In 1997 Traoré linked with Mali musician Ali Farka Touré which raised her profile.

She was selected to be on the jury for the main competition section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[5][6]


Her first album Mouneïssa (Label Bleu), released in late 1997 in Mali and September 1, 1998 in Europe, was acclaimed for its fresh treatment and unqualifiable combinations of several Malian music traditions such as her use of the ngoni and the balafon. It sold over 40,000 copies in Europe.

On July 11, 2000, her second album Wanita was released. Traoré wrote and arranged the entire album.

Her 2003 album Bowmboï has two tracks recorded with the Kronos Quartet but still sung in the Bamana language.

Her album Tchamantché was released on May 6, 2008, followed in 2013 by her album Beautiful Africa.

She wrote the music for the 2011 Toni Morrison play Desdemona.[7]

Personal life[edit]

From 2013 to 2018, Traoré had a relationship with Jan Goossens,[8] a Belgian playwright and artistic director with whom she has a daughter, born in Belgium in 2015. Since their separation in 2018, the couple have been in conflict over custody of their daughter.[9][10][11][12]

In March 2019 Traoré accused Goossens of sexually touching their daughter and deprived him of any contact with the child outside Mali. Goossens appealed to the Belgian courts and reported the charges against him. In a provisional judgment, the judge decided that the child would have to spend part of the summer vacation with the father. Traoré ignored this legal judgment. Next the Brussels court of first instance granted the father the child's main residence while deciding that parental authority would remain joint, and that custody would be shared. For her part, Traoré filed three complaints against Goossens, whom she accuses of sexually touching their daughter. A first complaint in Belgium, in July 2019, was dismissed. A few months later, she filed a second complaint in Mali, and then another complaint in France. Malian justice, seized well after the first judgment of the Belgian justice and the international arrest warrant, decided for its part to grant Traoré sole custody of her daughter in a provisional order.

In October 2019, Belgian courts issued an international arrest warrant against Traoré for "kidnapping, forcible confinement and hostage-taking". She was given, however, a period of a few months to present the child. Not having respected the final deadline of 22 February 2020 granted by the Belgian justice, Traoré was arrested on 10 March 2020 in Paris. She was stopping over there on her way to Belgium to attend the appeal hearing she made. Incarcerated in Fleury-Mérogis prison, she immediately began a hunger strike. Released under judicial supervision, she fled to Mali: "I am a mother who protects her children. So I packed my bags, headed for the airport, took a legal private plane. By virtue of the protection afforded to me by my Malian diplomatic passport, I was able to leave".


Traoré singing at TED in 2007.

She played at WOMAD in 2004 and completed her first tour of North America in the same year.[13]

In March 2005 she performed at the "Africa Live" festival, held in Dakar, Senegal.

Also in 2005 she performed at the Youssou N'dour and Friends concert in Geneva.

In December 2006 Peter Sellars' New Crowned Hope festival, which is part of the City of Vienna's celebrations commemorating Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birthday 250 years ago, saw the world premiere of Wati, a performance by Rokia Traoré and the Klangforum Wien.

In 2011 she performed at Paolo Fresu's Time in jazz festival in Berchidda.[14]

In September 2012, she was included in the campaign "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.[15]

In 2013, she performed at Glastonbury Festival.



Traoré on her Beautiful Africa tour in San Francisco, 2013
Year Album Peak positions


1998 Mouneïssa
2000 Wanita
2003 Bowmboï 43
2008 Tchamantché 76 63 35
2013 Beautiful Africa 86 120 66
2016 Né So 49 139 77


  1. ^ "2019: Rokia Traoré". Brighton Festival. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Awards for World Music 2004: Critics Award". BBC Radio 3. Accessed 22 October 2017
  4. ^ a b "Songlines Music Awards Winner 2009". Songlines (magazine). Accessed 22 October 2017
  5. ^ "The Jury of the 68th Cannes Film Festival". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller and Guillermo del Toro Join Cannes Film Festival Jury". The Wrap. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  7. ^ von Uthmann, Jorg (19 October 2011). "Desdemona Gets Even in Morrison-Sellars Othello Remix: Review". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  8. ^ Schippers, Valérie; Mary, Sven; Berton, Frank (20 March 2020). "La tragédie de Rokia Traoré et de son ex-compagnon". Libé Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  9. ^ "Mali music star Rokia Traoré on hunger strike after 'kidnapping' arrest". The Guardian. 22 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  10. ^ "Malian musician Rokia Traoré freed from French prison pending transfer to Belgium". The Guardian. 26 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  11. ^ "Paris court backs Mali singer's extradition". BBC News. 25 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  12. ^ "Mali backs singer Rokia after French arrest". BBC News. 15 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  13. ^ "Womad". BBC Radio 3. Accessed 22 October 2017
  14. ^ Time in Jazz, Calendario 2011.
  15. ^ "30 Songs / 30 Days for Half the Sky". Half the Sky Movement. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  16. ^ "Awards for World Music 2004: Winners & Nominees". BBC Radio 3. Accessed 22 October 2017
  17. ^ "BBC World Music 2005 Award"
  18. ^ "Songlines Music Awards 2009 Winner". Songlines (magazine). Accessed 22 October 2017
  19. ^ "Rokia Traoré Discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 14 April 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rough Guides, World Music the Rough Guide: Volume 1 Africa Europe and the Middle East, Second Edition. London. 2000. Page 560

External links[edit]