Mali’s Oumou Sangaré delivers Acoustic, an instrumental rework of her 2017 Grammy Award-winning Mogoya. Navigating through societal issues that persist in her homeland, the Wassoulou singer’s message reflects the landscape of diverse communities and their struggles from Bamako to Timbuktu. You may know her for her very much acclaimed debut Moussolou, which sold 250,000 units and featured ‘Ah N’Diya’, a song which paved the way for Malian artists on a global scale. Since her release in 1989, Sangaré has worked on several widely acclaimed projects. In 2019, she notably collaborated with Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Childish Gambino on the song ‘MOOD 4 EVA’, which featured on the soundtrack for the film The Lion King: The Gift.
The stripped-back production of Acoustic gives another insight into her worldwide acclaimed album, Mogoya. The rework of the album encourages an in-depth look at issues she had already discussed and which resonate on a global scale, especially in today’s socio-political climate. Asserting herself as one of the most prolific feminist voices in West Africa, Acoustic is a concise project that meshes Sangaré’s established activist vision, whilst permitting her artistry to take on a whole new dimension. Accompanied by the same unplugged band that helped her celebrate 15 years of the No Format! label at London EartH, the Malian pioneer recorded her new project over the space of just two days.
The first listen of Acoustic comes across as a step back from her previous works. The rawness of the recording creates a live-feel experience. Whilst this may come over as unusual, it is no surprise that Sangaré has decided to challenge the established etiquette of studio recording. Such an artistic decision is in sync with the songstress’s will to challenge the norm and problems that reside in our global society. On this project, she creates a flow stemming from the continuity of sounds and instrumentation utilized throughout the album which is very pleasing to the ear.
Nonetheless, do not be fooled. Acoustic may seem to many as another rendition of Sangaré’s tender and soothing voice; but underneath it lies pain, strength, and hope. Her songs present a longing for her homeland and the responsibility she has put upon herself to make change where it is due. The song ‘Yere Faga’ counsels urgently against suicide, ‘Kamelemba’ aims at feckless men, and ‘Fadjamou’ champions equality. Oumou has also added to the track-listing a version of ‘Diaraby Nene’, lifted from her debut. It dismantled taboos upon release by detailing her earliest physical encounters, providing the platform from which Sangaré continues to protest against female circumcision, forced marriages & polygamy.
Whether you enjoy the live aspect of Acoustic or not, the power of the project lies within its message and delivery. Distancing herself from a pristine sounding production, Oumou Sangaré emphasises the message she wishes to convey. As the unplugged versions of her songs play one after the other, the listener is submerged into her world: pleased and curious.