Christian Long

Rokia Traore: Sings “Kounandi”

In TED Talks on April 19, 2010 at 10:15 am

Reflection by TREVOR A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Rokia Traore:  Sings “Kounandi”

Note:  This is not the actual video from TED, but it is the same song.


This song was performed at a TED conference in Tanzania in June of 2007. Rokia Traore is a Malian singer and songwriter who is famous in Europe. In this song, she mixes the sound of her native instruments with her warm voice to produce what I thought to be a very soothing sound that still managed to send chills down my spine.

To me this song expressed many emotions in the sound of the music. During the beginning and near the end of the song there seemed to be a certain sadness to the song, as if she were singing about a negative event that occurred in her lifetime. But sometime after the mid-point of this song there also seemed to be a very fierce anger in both the tone of her voice as well as in the different riffs being played on the stringed instruments.

I would truly like to figure out how to play those instruments. The one played by the man on the far left reminds me a lot of your typical guitar. However, the man standing about in the middle is playing an instrument that I really have no idea what to make of. It seems almost like a mix between a guitar and a harp, and it has a very unique sound to it, almost like that of plucking a rubber band at high tension.

The audience that she played for gave her a very generous round of applause after she and her band-mates had completed performing “Kounandi”, which seemed well deserved to me. It looked as if she put a lot of heart and effort into this song, and you could really tell that she was trying her best to please the listening crowd, and I think she accomplished just that.

Rokia now has made several albums, and has toured in various places in Europe, where she has gained stardom. After reading these things about her becoming a famous singer in Europe, I was very confused. How does one come from southeast Africa, and become a star in Europe? This baffles me because of a few things: For one, Africa is not a very wealthy continent at any standard, and two, not meaning to sound offensive in any way, but how can one gain fame in another continent where your language is not even ever considered? On the contrary, I suppose if the sound is good, and the audience is open, there is popularity to be had if you put effort into it, which I’m sure there must have been much of.

To sum it all up, I really wish I knew what she was saying, because although I thought this was a beautiful piece, it may well be touching on some vital issues that should be important to others as well.


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