Powerful vocals and rhythms from Mali.
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. 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.
In 2015 Nahawa Doumbia played at the famous alternative festival Le Guess Who? in Utrecht to great acclaim. This year she is back with her band, still singing and swinging as ever before.