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Oumou Sangaré

Oumou Sangaré is a celebrated Malian singer-songwriter known for her commitment to the training and career development of young people in the music professions.

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Quick Facts

  • Country of origin:
    Mali
    Domain of expertise:
    Distinguished and Enduring Contributions to Music
    AKMA Cycle Year:
    Status:
    Laureate

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About the Artist

Oumou Sangaré is a celebrated Malian singer-songwriter widely known as “The Songbird of Wassoulou.” Born in 1968 to parents with origins in Wassoulou, a cultural region south of the Niger River that transects the borders of Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, Sangaré was two years old when her father took a second wife and abandoned her family. She dropped out of school as a child to help her mother raise the family by singing in the streets, and won an inter-kindergarten singing competition at the age of five, going on to sing for an audience of several thou- sand at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Cameroon.

As a teenager, she participated in an international tour with the percussion group Djoliba, returning to her hometown with the inspiration to start her own musical group. She recorded her first album, Moussolou (Women) in 1990 with renowned Malian arranger Amadou Ba Guindo, selling more than 200,000 copies in Africa. Since then, she has released seven solo albums and performed at prestigious venues worldwide, including the Melbourne Opera, the Opéra de la Monnaie, and the Oslo World Music Festival. Sangaré has won numerous music awards, including the IMC-UN- ESCO International Music Prize in 2001. Her album Seya was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2010, and Herbie Hancock’s album Imagine, for which she contributed vocals, won the Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 2011. Sangaré’s music is inspired by the music and traditional dances of Wassoulou, and she is considered a cultural ambassador of the region. Her song lyrics discuss women’s rights advocacy, and critique social issues such as gender inequality, child marriage, and polygamy.

She was named a goodwill ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 2003, and a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 1998. In addition to her musical endeavours, she is involved in the hotel, agriculture, and automobile industries.

Oumou Sangaré

Oumou Sangaré is a celebrated Malian singer-songwriter known for her commitment to the training and career development of young people in the music professions.