Oumou Sangaré: "I invite new listeners to come and discover my album and discover Africa"
Grammy award-winning global superstar Oumou Sangaré is set to release her most ambitious work to date: Timbuktu. This stunning collection of songs fuses her distinctive Malian sound and voice with elements of blues, folk and rock and is set for release on World Circuit Records on April 29th. We spoke to Oumou in an exclusive interview to find out about the new LP, female empowerment and her famous fans, from Grace Jones to Beyoncé!
TM: Your new album Timbuktu is released on 29th April and has been described as your most ambitious work to date. Obviously, there’s a huge amount of excitement and talk about the release worldwide but what does the record represent to you personally?
This album represents a lot of things for me. It has been influenced by lockdowns, Covid-19 and also the result of more than 30 years of my musical career.
TM: The last two years have meant the way that almost everyone on planet earth goes about their daily life has had to change - how did Lockdown measures affect the way you wrote and recorded the record?
The pandemic has had positive and negative aspects. Before Covid, the family union was more dispersed: men and women at work, children going to school and seeing their parents struggling, everyone very tired at the end of the day and the next day you start again.
Covid has allowed people to relearn to live as a family, and frankly, that was the positive side of the pandemic. On the negative side, the pandemic has slowed down the whole world, it has slowed down all business. It has affected artists very much. But for me personally, although I was forced to stay at home to record, it was in peace, without stress.
TM: You’re an artist who, throughout your entire career, has been staunch in her activism for female empowerment. As issues of feminism and gender equality have increasingly become global talking points over the last decade, what do you think have been the biggest victories in the battle for gender equality across your thirty-year career? On the other side of that question, what remains the biggest challenge?
For the liberation of women, gender equality, I think that since the beginning of my career there have been big changes. But we must recognise that there is still a lot to do because it is not yet over, we are not yet equal. But currently, frankly, it must be said that even men have understood that men and women complement each other. So, we've taken a big step in the last 30 years, but there’s still more to be done.
TM: You are playing London’s Meltdown Festival this year, curated by Grace Jones. Are you looking forward to visiting the UK and did you know that Grace was a fan of your art before being approached for this festival?
It is always a real pleasure to go to the United Kingdom, which I love so much – London has seen me grow.
I didn't previously know that Grace was a fan, so I'm really looking forward to the show.
TM: As well as Grace Jones, Beyoncé and Aya Nakamura have cited you as an important inspiration - how does it feel to have been an influence on the work of such remarkable artists?
It’s a pleasure, it gives me courage, energy, and the motivation to continue, to know that Grace Jones, Beyoncé, Aya Nakamura and so many young people take me as an example and as a source of inspiration. It still makes me want to move forward and to not disappoint all these fans who are inspired by me.
TM: Finally, for readers of this article that are coming to the music of Oumou Sangaré - and perhaps even African music - for the first time, do you have a message to accompany your music for brand new listeners?
Africa is the source of several genres of music: jazz, funk, blues and others. I invite new listeners to come and discover my album and discover Africa - I am sure they will not be disappointed! Happy listening to everyone!
Pre-order the new Oumou Sangaré album Timbuktu from the World Circuit Store now.