Khaira Arby: Mali's Reigning Queen Of Song

Khaira Arby i i

hide captionIn "Waidio," singer Khaira Arby insists that women must be free to pursue their own happiness.

Chris Nolan
Khaira Arby

In "Waidio," singer Khaira Arby insists that women must be free to pursue their own happiness.

Chris Nolan

Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "Waidio"
  • Artist: Khaira Arby
  • CD: Timbuktu Tarab
  • Genre: World

Khaira Arby is the reigning queen of song in Timbuktu, Mali. She's been writing and singing in the indigenous languages of her Sahara Desert region — Sonrhai, Tamaschek, Bambara, Arabic — for decades. Her robust voice, roiling grooves and direct lyrics, often addressing sensitive issues, have made her a legend in her own time. Arby's debut international CD release (Timbuktu Tarab) and her first U.S. tour are giving Americans their first glimpses of a desert rose. But, as they'll discover, that rose has both a beautiful crimson flower and razor-sharp thorns.

Perhaps Arby's greatest social impact in a conservative Islamic milieu has been her advocacy on behalf of women. She divorced a controlling husband to pursue a career in music. (She's since remarried.) As a singer, she's opened the door to a generation of artistic women who now follow in her footsteps. Arby has also sung against the practice of female genital mutilation, and in "Waidio," she decries the "anguish of women," insisting that they must be free to pursue their own happiness. Arby asks, "Why, in a country of beautiful women, do men go to war?" The song showcases Arby's powerful vocal in her first language, Sonrhai, as well as the amazingly tight groove of her electric-guitar-driven band.

Purchase Featured Music

Timbuktu Tarab

Purchase Music

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: Timbuktu Tarab
  • Artist: Khaira Arby
  • Released: 2010
 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.