Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fes Festival Preview #3 ~ Divas of the World

The Bab al Makina concert on the night of May the 8th promises to be a treat. Two powerful women - Hindi Zahra and Oumou Sangaré - will take to the stage, bringing their ancestral cultures right into the modern world
Hindi Zahra

The first half of the evening will be a chance for Moroccans to welcome back Hindi Zahra, a French Moroccan with a growing international following.

Originally from Khouribga in Morocco, and named Zahra Hindi, she simply inverted her name when embarking on her musical career.  A descendant of a long line of Amazigh and Tuareg musicians, her ancestors are members of the Oudaden tribe and it was her parents and uncles who introduced Hindi Zahra to the Amazigh culture and taught her the rudiments of traditional Gnawa music.

At the age of fifteen, she left school and moved to Paris to live with her father, a former soldier. At age 18, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, she wrote her first lyrics and melodies and by 2005 had written about 50 songs.  Beautiful Tango, Our Soul, Try, and Stand Up were released on an EP  in 2009 and eleven songs were recorded on Hindi Zahra's first album, Handmade, which was released in January 2010 at the Jazz label Blue Note Records. The video to the opening song Beautiful Tango was made by French director Tony Gatlif.

Described by music critics as "is a complete artist, with very personal songs, filled with the Amazigh (Berber) heat carried by a simmering voice", her first album, Handmade (2010), was an instant success, winning her the Prix Constantin and a Victoire de la Musique.

Her songs are mostly in English but some lyrics as in the song "Imik Si Mik" are in the Amazigh language.

Her latest album, Homeland (2015), has been well received and displays more diverse influences such as blues, jazz, Cape Verde, Gnawa, Iran, Brazil and gypsy music. Delivered in a melodious melancholic style the album explores the notion of the word "homeland".  This question of the homeland, the question of "home" is central to the album: is it my homeland or can it be any country with which one has affinities?

Oumou Sangaré - her concert in 2015 was cancelled due to rain storms

The second half of the evening belongs to Oumou Sangaré from the Wassoullou region of Bamako in Mali and, like Hindi Zahra, she is a woman who knows the value of the past.
"We need to know our origins, where we are from. As artists, we are trying to get close to these roots through our music. Africa is rich. Africans aren't poor. We are rich in everything which is necessary." - Oumou Sangaré
Oumou Sangaré was scheduled to have performed at the 2015 Fes Festival and the cancellation, due to a rain storm, was a disappointment to her many fans.

As a child, Oumou Sangaré sang in order to help her mother feed their family as her father had abandoned them. At the age of five, she was well known for her talents as a gifted singer. After making it to the finals of a contest for the nursery schools of Bamako, she performed in front of a crowd of 6,000 at the Omnisport Stadium. At 16, she went on tour with the percussion group Djoliba.

Sangaré recorded her first album, Moussoulou ("Women"), with Amadou Ba Guindo, a renowned maestro of Malian music. The album was very successful in Africa, with more than 200,000 copies sold.

With the help of Ali Farka Touré, Sangaré signed with the English label World Circuit. At the age of 21, she was already a star.

Oumou Sangaré is considered an ambassador of Wassoulou; her music has been inspired by the music and traditional dances of the region. She writes and composes her songs, which often include social criticism, especially concerning women's low status in society.

Since 1990, she has performed at some of the most important venues in the world: the Melbourne Opera, Roskilde festival, festival d'Essaouira, Opéra de la monnaie of Brussels.

Many of Sangaré's songs concern love and marriage, especially freedom of choice in marriage. In 1995, she toured with Baaba Maal, Femi Kuti and Boukman Eksperyans. Other albums include Ko Sira (1993), Worotan (1996), and a 2-CD compilation Oumou (2004), all released on World Circuit Records. Sangaré supports the cause of women throughout the world. She was named an ambassador of the FAO in 2003 and won the UNESCO Prize in 2001 and was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 1998.

However, despite her position, says she does not want to be a politician: "Oumou Sangaré is apolitical. I prefer to stay at the side of those who have no voice. In politics, it's not possible to say the bad things. I could never be a politician!"

She is also a businesswomen. She says she wants to show women that through work, they can change their situations. Sangaré has launched a car, the "Oum Sang," built the Hotel Wassoulou in Bamako and has created a 10 hectare farm where she can teach women agricultural techniques. "I bring women to my farm to work on the farm to show them what is possible."

When asked about her inspiration, Sangaré says, "My inspiration comes from African women. The situation of African women inspires me. The current state of women in African inspires me. As a child, I experienced suffering. That has also inspired me in my life."

Sangaré is a force to be reckoned with.

Divas of the World
Bab Al Makina - May 8 – 21h00

Book your ticket here

The View From Fez is a Fez Festival official Media Partner

See our Fes Festival previews:
Opening Night Preview
Homage to India Preview
Divas of the World Preview
Nights in the Medina 1 Preview
Nights in the Medina 2 Preview
Nights in the Medina 3 Preview
Istanbul to Fez Preview
Tribute to Oum Keltoum Preview
Samira Saïd Preview
Forum Sessions Preview
Sufi Nights & Boujloud Concerts

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ordered Hindi Zahra's "Homeland" CD because of this post (it's not on iTunes), and I'm really loving it. Thanks!