Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Rokia Traoré: Wanita [Indigo, 2000]
Where an older younger generation might have equated musical self-definition with rock, this daughter of the Malian elite engages tradition in a culture where music is culture's engine, modernizing so subtly that Euro-American folkies will believe she's toning things down just for them. Her deepest innovations are in the shades of her willowy soprano, a delicate thing by the wailing standards of the female griots whose intonations she modulates--and whose ideology she injects with a female pride they won't admit, even praising useless drudges who can't procreate. Other times her moralism is stiffer, but her music never is. It's the image of an African voice bending neocolonialism to its own knowledge and needs. A-