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Ahead of the launch of album, Rhythms Del Mundo: Africa, we speak to Rokia Traoré, a Victoires de la Musique award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist, whose energy and timeless voice enriches you on so many levels.  Rokia rehearses and creates her shows in Mali, but whilst touring or has an album coming out, she is based in France where she has a second home. Her music has been described as "Afro-beat or Afro-rock-beat", combining influences from Western music and West African music.  Growing up, we asked the talented singer what influences shaped her music and formed part of her music background?

I travelled a lot with my family when I was a child. My father used to be a diplomat. I discovered music  as my pleasure early in my childhood. Travelling in Europe offered me the opportunity of listening to different European music styles. But, through my parents, my musical influence remained rooted in my African culture, African music is the base of my musical background.

What do you love about singing?

The interconnection between voice, soul and body is something amazing. For me singing teaches me more about myself and it helps me to be connected with others.

How has your music changed over the years?

My music probably changed as often as and as much as I have changed over these last 15 years. And it will certainly change again and again.  What is alive is never done!

What was the first first song you ever sung?

I have been singing since I was a small child, but I don't remember my first song as such.  The first song I sang at the beginning of my career was OUR RIGHTS, written by the leader of the rap band I used to be part of when I was 16. 

How did the collaboration with  Rhythms del Mundo – Africa come about?

I was contacted by the albums creator Kenny Young, through a friend of mine. After learning more about the project I decided to add my musical contribution.

If we were to turn on your iPod or music player right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently played list?

I can look and tell you now... Bob Marley, Dare Street, Scorpions, Heandel's Julio Cesar, by René Jacobs (a belgian conductor)  and Salif Keïta (Mali)

Where do you draw inspiration from?

There's no better source of inspiration than everyday life, things happening all around us.

How do you compose your tracks and what’s your favourite part about the process?

I usually compose music independently from lyrics.  Then I test pieces of music with different lyrics - kind of mix and match. Often the lyrics and music change slightly in the process, but it's always a work in progress!

Do you have a favourite type of guitar or other instrument to play?

I love the Gretsch! but I discovered a french guitar few months ago, LAG, it's an electric guitar, it has became one of my favourites.

What plans do you have over the next few months?

There is always a lot going on in my life, but one of the main things I'll be working on these next months is my new album.
For more information about the album, visit: www.apeuk.org
Rokia’s website: www.rokiatraore.net

As featured in Unfolded Magzine Issue 10
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