Oumou Sangare

Agent: Chris Colbourn

It’s eight years since Oumou Sangaré last released an album of new material and much has changed since we last heard from the greatest living female voice in African music.

The power of her voice and the potency of her message remain inviolable but with a new label, an allnew production team and a vital new set of songs, her latest album Mogoya (it translates roughly as ‘people today’) represents an exciting new chapter in Oumou Sangaré’s storied career.

While her sound remains rooted deep in the continuity of Malian tradition, at the same time this is Oumou as we have never heard her before. Recorded in Stockholm by Andreas Unge, and produced in Paris with the crack French production team A.L.B.E.R.T. (Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni and Vincent Taeger), Mogoya is a record that both draws upon a rich musical heritage and looks to the future. “We wanted to emphasise the raw power of Oumou’s voice and songs and to avoid the glossy smoothness of so many current African productions,” says Ludovic Bruni, who with his co-producers Taurelle and Taeger, has worked with the likes of Air, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck and Franz Ferdinand. “We wanted to find a new modernity”.

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It’s only the fifth studio album since Oumou’s spectacular debut announced the arrival of an audaciously fearless new African voice some 27 years ago. But Mogoya sounds and feels like a career defining moment, the rich fruit of hard-won experience over a life spent confronting prejudice and obstacles – and triumphing over them. “This album is the result of many years of work. I’ve collaborated with many people and I’ve been able to observe people’s mentality,” Oumou says. “This time around I wanted to go for more of a modern sound, to satisfy young people in Mali, but being careful, all the while, to respect my culture and my tradition.”

Stylish, elegant, feisty and charismatic with a soulful, soaring voice, Sangaré has become an emblem for African womanhood and makes a striking role model. She has used her songs to campaign fearlessly to improve the position of women in Mali and to oppose polygamy, child marriage and a system that defines a ‘good wife’ as a submissive woman. “Ever since I was a kid, I promised myself that one day I will scream about this problem to the whole world,” she says. “Women have a hard time in Africa. We have no voice; our men do all our talking for us,” Oumou says. “My role is to speak directly to women both through my songs and setting an example and showing them that they can make their own decisions”. She was the first one who started to speak out about correcting the inequalities and injustice that women still endure in Mali.

After more than twenty years with World Circuit, she describes her move to the Paris-based No Format! label as “a bit nerve-wracking” but one she feels she had to make in order to expand her horizons and find a new energy. “When we had the opportunity to sign Oumou, it felt like an exceptional chance,” says No Format! founder Laurent Bizot. She approached the project, he reports, with a mixture of boldness, humility and confidence that are the hallmarks of a supreme artist. “It was new for me, because my music has never had this kind of arrangement and sound before,” Oumou says. “I’ve been totally in the tradition for years now so to get out of that and have a look around elsewhere was a total pleasure.”

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