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Country Mali Genres roots traditional spiritual Website
Festival Sauti za Busara 2013 Recordings
Timbuktu Tarab, 2010
For women, singing can be the road to personal power. When their voice is as strong as Malian vocalist Khaira Arby's, that power can move mountains, change minds, and win battles. Arby's rich, potent sound aims to do just that, shifting seamlessly between the edgy and progressive and the traditional and deeply rooted.
Inspired by her cousin Ali Farka Toure, Arby turns to her mixed Berber and Songhai roots and draws on a sweet mixture of desert blues and recording sophistication, blending ripping electric guitar with ngoni (forefather of banjo), funky drum breaks and traditional percussions of scraper and calabash. Though very much her own woman, Arby, born in a village not far from the famed city of Timbutku, is firmly planted in the desert sand.
Her creativity flows in part from the people of her home region of Northern Mali, and from their past and present struggles.
Khaira Arby invokes the mystery, history, and heart of Timbuktu. As she says: "Trab is our land, our home, Timbuktu. Its history, its mystery, everything…”
Extremely popular in Mali, Arby has updated an important role of African women in traditional societies: praise singing. This means bluesy homage to the prophet Mohammed (“Salou”) or to good friends. “Dja Cheickna” praises a beautiful friend of Arby’s from a good family: “May Dja Cheickna live a good life.” The song bursts with funky high-hat, sizzling bass and guitar, and Arby’s stunning yodeling, as age-old hand-clapping rhythms entwine with crunchy distorted guitar.
Recently Arby has started touring internationally, wowing and mesmerising audiences at SXSW, WOMAD, 3 Culturas, Africa Oye and other festivals. Her most recent album, Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music) was listed Best CD of 2011 in Busara’s Routes in Rhythm charts.
"Her 2010 album, “Timbuktu Tarab” (Clermont Music), was one of the decade’s best African albums, and onstage her music was even more electrifying." (Jon Pareles, New York Times)
"One of the living legends of Malian music, Khaira Arby is widely hailed as the queen of Malian desert soul, and with good reason. Shrouded in regal colors, she presides over a small army of brilliant African musicians, who create a hypnotic backdrop for her gloriously swooping vocals." (NPR Music)