Front Row

Khaira Arby: SXSW 2011

One of the living legends of Malian music, Khaira Arby is widely hailed as the queen of Malian desert soul, and with good reason. Shrouded in regal colors, she presides over a small army of brilliant African musicians, who create a hypnotic backdrop for her gloriously swooping vocals. It feels a little silly to think of her as a frontwoman — the mere lead singer of some band — on the live stage, she's all showmanship and command.

Taking gorgeous songs from her album Timbuktu Tarab and fleshing them out into full-fledged dance parties, Arby and her band didn't stick out awkwardly on a bill between the eccentric flourishes of tUnE-yArDs and the monumentally assured rock 'n' roll of WILD FLAG — if anything, they're a perfect bridge. Performing live as part of NPR Music's SXSW day party at The Parish in Austin, Texas, Arby proved once again that so-called "world" music needn't be segregated from American rock and soul. She belongs here, and everywhere.

Set List
  • "Sallou"
  • "Cinquantenaire"
  • "Djoungou"
  • "Alouha"
  • "Lilliyoro"
Band Personnel
  • Khaira Arby - Lead Vocals
  • Dramane Toure - Lead Guitar
  • M'Barka Dembebe - Rhythm Guitar
  • Mohamed Ag Mohamed - Bass
  • Mahal Madane Abbanassane - Drums
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