Live in Concert: Nahawa Doumbia

Nahawa Doumbia’s „La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 3“ is out on Awesome Tapes From Africa. 

The restored recording by the Malian chanteuse best known for her contributions to Wassoulou music is the first release for new label Awesome Tapes From Africa, a blog and DJ project known worldwide for shedding light on obscure and wonderful musical treasures from the African continent.

La Grande Cantatrice Malienne was recorded in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1982, capturing the singular duality inherent in her music early on: a stripped-down, raw backdrop supported by warm sonics; feminist expressions of social issues imparted through stark refrains. The album is third in a series recorded in the early ’80s near the beginning of the singer’s nearly four decade career.

Previously available as a long out-of-print vinyl import from Ivory Coast, La Grande Cantatrice Malienne, Vol. 3 is available on CD, LP, digital download and limited edition cassette. The album’s four songs are supported by a minimalist ensemble of guitar, piano, kamele ngoni and percussion.

The singer was raised by her grandmother – her mother died shortly after giving birth. But before passing away Doumbia’s mother predicted the girl would be a singer – which was surprising since she didn’t come from the jeli (or griot) caste of hereditary singers. Her grandparents resorted to the magical powers of blacksmiths to fight it, but ultimately the prediction proved correct. Doumbia’s music is more powerful than magic.

Listen to La Grande Cantatrice Malienne here:

Nahawa Doumbia is one of the most popular singers of the Wassoulou region in South Mali. She speaks to the younger generation of West Africa through her lyrics about love, the position of women in society, and the situation of African refugees in France. Her voice soars to Didadi, a dance rhythm from her native area.

Nahawa Doumbia was born in the small town of Mafélé, in the district of Sikasso close to the border of Ivory Coast. Her grandmother had to raise the newborn because Nahawa’s mother died shortly after giving birth. She grew up in Manankoro, near Bougouni, the most important city in the Wassoulou region. This area is well known for generating some of the best female singers in Mali, including Oumou Sangaré. Even though Nahawa Doumbia’s family was not part of the Jeli tradition (the Manding caste that performs music), Nahawa’s mother predicted before she died that her daughter would be a singer. This is something that her family tried to prevent, even with magical powers, but to no effect.

The young Malian woman was discovered by civil servants from the Ministry of Culture when she was singing with her friends. Despite her father’s opposition, she sung at the Youth Week in Bamako in 1980, a biannual event in which artists from all of the country participated. Nahawa Doumbia won the contest with the song „Tinye De Be Laban“. Since then and always accompanied by her husband, guitarist N’Gou Bagayoko, her fame grew in Mali and Europe. She shared the stages with Manu Dibango, Toure Kunda or Miriam Makeba.

In 1989 Nahawa’s first internationally released album „Didadi“ came out, produced by Ibrahima Sylla and Boncana Maiga, the creators of modern Manding music.

The turn of the century saw the singer being very active, releasing the widely recognized and praised album „Yaala“ as well as collaborating with the popular French DJ and producer Frederic Galliano on a crossover project.

In 2011 the critically acclaimed blogger and ethnomusicologist Brian Shimkovitz chose Nahawa’s early tape „La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 3“ to become the first official release on his new Awesome Tapes From Africa label. It received rave reviews worldwide.



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