fri 18/10/2019

Oumou Sangaré, Earth review - the new Mama Africa takes her crown | reviews, news & interviews

Oumou Sangaré, Earth review - the new Mama Africa takes her crown

Oumou Sangaré, Earth review - the new Mama Africa takes her crown

For the 15th anniversary of top world music label, the Malian singer goes African classical

Oumou Sangare: Mali maestro

Oumou Sangaré is not a woman to be trifled with – tales of people who have crossed her and lived to regret it abound: one story (of many) has her personally hiring a bulldozer in a land dispute and getting a recalcitrant local official sacked. She looked super-glamorous at Earth in a white dress and blue nails, and her backing singers looked and sounded ravishing in vertiginous heels and 70s hairdos.

The Dalston venue is becoming a great addition to London’s music venues – a little run-down with wooden seating but with a warm atmosphere and excellent sound centring on Oumou’s extraordinary soulful. heart-breaking voice. This was also the 15th anniversary of her label No Format, one of the most dynamic and interesting world music labels, based in Paris. Later stops in the tour include Lyon, New York and Kinshasa. The label has an impressive track record of putting out global music that is popular but also with pioneering, artistic ambitions.

Last month they brought over to London the brilliant Cameroonian singer Blick Bassy and, as with this concert, there was a sense we were listening to modern African classical music. This was a chamber concert with, unusually for Oumou or most African music, no percussion, with the heavy instrumental lifting being done by a couple of virtuosos – Guimba Kouyate on finger picked guitar and with some gorgeous, evocative solos by Aboud Dialli on the ngoni, the traditional hunter’s harp from Oumou’s birthplace, the lush, green Wassalou region in Mali.

The highlights were the title track of her latest album Mogoya, a wonderful lament and a couple of more upbeat songs from the same album "Bena Bena" and "Fadjamoo". There were numerous shouts of "We love you" from a packed audience and Oumou was happy to regally reply "J’adore" in return. Since the death of Miriam Makeba a decade ago, her crown of Mama Africa, the most iconic female voice in Africa, has been up for grabs. Oumou is outstripping all rivals.

On after Oumou was Que Volo, who more than made up for the lack of percussion earlier, with a trio of hot Cuban drummers playing with French jazzers in a highly original mix. Fascinating to listen to, while the live sound of the two teams (and it still felt like two teams) is likely to gel organically the more they play live.

This was a chamber concert with, unusually for Oumou or most African music, no percussion


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article


The last group mentioned is called ¿Que Vola?

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.