Watch: ‘Kurunba’ by Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee

Posted: 16 January 2022 in Recommended Streams and Videos
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Rokia Koné, one of Mali’s most popular female singers, has announced her long-awaited debut album BAMANAN — a collaboration with Irish-born, California-based rock producer Jacknife Lee. Ahead of its release on 18 February 2022, they have shared the single ‘Kurunba’, the follow up to debut track ‘N’yanyan’.

Rokia Koné, who is already a major star in her home country, was first introduced to international audiences as part of the acclaimed feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique in 2017 when she featured alongside some of West Africa’s biggest female artists on the critically-acclaimed album République Amazone.

Jacknife Lee is the acclaimed producer of globally-renowned bands U2, R.E.M and The Killers, and has earned Grammy recognition for his work on Taylor Swift’s multi-million selling Red. Stadium-sized soundscapes are his speciality, yet BAMANAN finds Lee upholding the stark beauty of Rokia’s voice with subtlety and sensitivity. Every nuance and breath is heard, each inflection and melismatic improvisation carefully preserved.

The song ‘Kurunba’ is a powerful example of resistance and denouncing the customs of exclusion faced by women when they have finished raising their husband’s children. In some patriarchal societies, once her children are married, the wife’s role in the family is diminished and often results in the arrival of a co-wife. If she rebels against this, she could be branded as ‘mad’ and isolated from society.

“Kurunba tells the story of a particular woman who was freed from her isolation,” explains Rokia. “On the day of her daughter’s wedding she sang this song, and the same people who had tried to lock her up were transformed into dogs and flies. It’s like a curse.”

As a member of Les Amazones d’Afrique (the West African musical collective who campaign for gender equality) women’s issues are a regular theme in Rokia’s songs. “We cannot list all the problems women face,” she says. “Lack of access to education for girls, conjugal violence suffered by women in households, rivalry amongst co-wives, and more besides. I call on men to get involved in works that protect and make women happy.” — Rokia Koné 

In the video for ‘Kurunba’, Rokia enters a London nightclub as an apparition amongst a gathering of some of the city’s most talented young contemporary dancers, who react to the song’s high-energy, uplifting spirit. It was directed and choreographed by Zambia-born dance artist Kennedy Junior Muntanga.

Watch the video here:

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Photo credit: Paulina Biswell

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