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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Pangaea: The URI Roots Music Series to present international musician Rokia Traoré

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 16, 2004 -- Rokia Traoré, a breakthrough artist whose exotic blend of African rhythms and bold textures has taken the international music community by storm, will kick off her North American Tour at the University of Rhode Island. The performance, part of the annual Pangaea: The URI Roots Music Series will take place on Friday, October 1 at 8 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the Kingston campus. The concert is sponsored by the URI Department of Housing and Residential Life.

Traoré began singing in high school and as a teen-ager performed on Malian television. It was not until 1996, at the age of 22, that she decided to become a professional singer/songwriter. After winning Radio France Internationale’s “African Discovery of the Year” award; she released her debut album, Mouneissa, to critical acclaim. The 2000 follow-up Wanita, climbed the charts in Europe and received critical acclaim worldwide, with New York Times music critic Jon Pareles including it on his top ten albums of 2001. Her latest release, Bowmboi, has been receiving the same praise. Time Magazine called it, “… mesmerizing, casting its spell with virtuoso vocals and startling diversity.”

Growing up a diplomat’s daughter, she spent much of her life in foreign countries like Belgium, Saudi Arabia, and the United States; obtaining an appreciation for other cultures and musical styles (she cites Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, and Joe Zawinul as her influences). As a result, she speaks fluent English, French, German, and Italian, but prefers to record in her native tongue of Bamana and plays instruments native to Mali like the ngoni and balaba. Her songs touch upon topics relevant to everyone, not just Malians, as she sings about love, poverty, women’s rights, and childhood. In a country that is not known for its female musicians, Traoré has become a role model to a younger generation of women, and according to music journalist Banning Eyre, she is proving to be a, “transitional figure,” standing between the past and the future.

Edwards Auditorium will open at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public, but a voluntary $5 donation at the door would be appreciated. Questions about Traoré or the Pangaea series may be directed to Michael LaPointe, URI Office of Residential Education, 401-874-5162.