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Oumou Sangare: Ko Sira

Oumou Sangare is a singer who demands to be heard, in any context. Mali’s soul queen has been making inroads to a broader audience in the West in recent years, and anyone as yet unconvinced of her power should proceed directly to the reissue of her 1993 album, Ko Sira. It’s not surprising to find that the album comes off like a timeless beauty, with no pesky old-school production tics to date it. Front and center is Sangare’s commanding voice, which draws us in not through bullying or excess, but through warmth and measured intensity. She has long been an ardent proponent of the empowerment of women, struggling against the male-dominant traditions of her homeland (and, indeed, the world at large), which comes through on songs such as “Advice to a New Bride” and “Womanizer.” If anyone can preach a gospel and make converts, it’s Sangare. I’m a true believer.

Originally Published