Les Amazones D'Afrique Envision A World Of Gender Equality

Apr 20, 2017
Originally published on April 21, 2017 3:34 pm

Les Amazones d'Afrique is a collective of female West African singers. They each have careers of their own, but came together to collaborate on République Amazone, an album that envisions a world of gender equality.

Even if you've never heard the voice of Rokia Koné, one of the artists featured on the album, you may recognize the searing, dry passion of a young diva from the West African sahel — savannah blues with a techno-pop makeover. This musical mashup of tradition and technology echoes the larger goal here: to make a big noise for women in a world run by men.

This album is not out to showcase individual talents. There are some stars involved, like Benin's Grammy-winning Angélique Kidjo and Mariam of the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam. But the overall feeling here is plural: voices from different musical backgrounds not so much harmonizing as convening a rowdy town hall on the dance floor.

République Amazone draws from many genres, but adheres to none. Instruments, sounds and voices warble in and out of the mix. Most of the grooves are upbeat and clubby, but there are introspective moments, like on "La Dame Et Ses Valises" ("The Woman And Her Suitcases"), an elegant song by the Nigerian alternative-pop singer Nneka.

There's a lot going on within this spirited collection of styles and agendas — maybe too much. But there's no mistaking the talent and vision these spectacular vocalists share. Bring this party of musician-activists into your home and there's a good chance you'll want to get to know them individually. And that might be the biggest payoff of all.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Les Amazones d'Afrique is a collective of female West African singers. They all have successful careers of their own. They came together to make an album with a message. It's called "Republique Amazone." It promotes a world of gender equality. And Banning Eyre has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEEP IN LOVE")

ROKIA KONE: (Singing in foreign language).

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: That's the voice of Rokia Kone from Mali. And even if you've never heard of her, you may recognize the searing, dry passion of a young diva from the West African Sahel. Savannah blues with a techno-pop makeover, this musical mashup of tradition and technology echoes the larger goal here to make a big noise for women in a world ruled by men.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOMBOLO")

KONE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: This album is not out to showcase individual talents. There are some stars involved, like Benin's Grammy-winning Angelique Kidjo and Mariam of the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam. But the overall feeling here is plural, voices from different musical backgrounds not so much harmonizing as convening a rowdy town hall on the dance floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FULL MOON")

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: "Republique Amazone" draws from many genres but adheres to none. Instrument, sounds and voices warble in and out of the mix. Most of the grooves are upbeat and clubby, but there are some introspective moments, like this elegant song by Nneka, a young alternative pop singer from Nigeria. It's called "Les Dame et Ses Valises," the woman and her suitcase.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DAME ET SES VALISES")

NNEKA: (Singing) As we walk, we walk with luggage because when things go wrong, we still be strong. No matter what they bring, we'll still be here 'cause when things go wrong, we'll still be here.

EYRE: There's a lot going on within this spirited collection of styles and agendas - maybe too much. But there's no mistaking the talent and vision these spectacular vocalists share. Bring this party of musical activists into your home, and there's a good chance you'll want to get to know them individually. And that might be the biggest payoff of all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PLAY THE KORA")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing in foreign language).

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is a senior producer for Afropop Worldwide. He reviewed "Republique Amazone" by Les Amazones d'Afrique.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PLAY THE KORA")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing in foreign language).

(SOUNDBITE OF PRETTY LIGHTS SONG, "FINALLY MOVING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.