Mory Kanté is a legend, a traditional West African musician who rose to regional stardom in the ‘70s, rocked the world pop charts from his adopted home in Paris in the ‘80s, rode the wave of globalized African music in the ‘90s, and returned home to his native Guinea in the 2000s to become a force for economic development and an inspirational voice for a new generation of Africans.
Optimism and inspiration are themes that pervade the songs on Kanté’s last album, La Guinéenne, his eleventh. This is both a love song to Africa, and Guinea, and a treasure chest of hard-nosed advice about trust, hard work, gratitude, and the importance of maintaining traditions in the face of modernity. Kanté’s wise council is rooted in years of travel and service as an advocate for human progress—supporting UN Food and Agriculture Organization initiatives (most recently, the 1 Billion Hungry campaign), UNESCO and other programs aimed at aiding refugees, saving threatened forests, and seeking to end the practice of female genital mutilation. La Guinéenne’s title track marks a first in Kanté’s large repertoire—a full-throated praise song to the women of the world, whose sacrifice, dedication, and centrality to human progress is too often met with oppression and neglect. La Guinéenne is also a musical tour de force from a pioneer whose work has helped define the musical language of post-independence Africa, and who remains one of the most forceful bandleaders and compelling vocalists in African music today.