Oumou Sangare UT Hogg Auditorium Thursday, November 6

"Music is taken very seriously in Mali and Africa because it has a message, because singing is a way of telling stories," says Oumou Sangare, probably the most well-known singer from the musically rich West African country of Mali.

"Mali has such a strong musical tradition because it produces many different rhythms, and the rhythm is the key, the foundation," she explains. Even so, Sangare's songs, overflowing as they are with danceable rhythms, command attention for their powerful messages and her equally potent voice. Speaking French through her interpreter, Sangare explains that her adamant will and forceful lyrics are required to espouse women's right in Mali, where polygamy still exists.

"My mother was the first wife of my father, who had many wives, and I saw how she suffered in this situation. I will fight right to my death to end the suffering of the women in Mali, for the rights of African women and of women throughout the world."

At first, this position didn't win many fans.

"In the beginning I really suffered because men didn't like what I was singing about. They'd say, `What are you doing, you should shut up!'"

But her message got through. Her first and second releases reached the top of the charts in Mali and Europe, respectively. "And now," says Sangare, "it's fantastic, because many women from Mali have created what they call "Oumou Sangare Clubs," and they really back me in what I sing about."

Her strong conviction and breathtaking talent have won her other fans as well. Former James Brown horn man Pee Wee Ellis arranged and played on a few cuts from her exceptional third Nonesuch release, Worotan, and the adventurous four-piece string group, Kronos Quartet, wants to record with her in the near future.

"I am very, very excited," says the 28-year-old when asked how she feels about headlining her first American tour.

We should be excited too. Now we can hear what the rest of the world is talking about. -- David Lynch

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