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Mokontafe Sako (1934*-2002)
(Mali)
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Musiques du Mali

Mokontafe Sako has been one of the most prominent female singers of Mali during the first two decades after independence. When the short-lived Federation du Mali broke up in August 1960, Mokontafé left Dakar together with Modibo Keita's delegation to come back to Bamako. Being close to president Keita's family, she was soon called to select singers and musicians to form the new Ensemble National Instrumental du Mali. This ensemble was created in order to play at official ceremonies and parties, but also to research the various musical traditions from a variety of cultural regions of the country, such as the Mandé, the Wagadu, the Segou region, the Kaarta and the Sankoré. Mokontafé was in this case the assistant of the director of the ensemble, Bourama Sacko.

From 1963 onwards, the Ensemble National were the international cultural ambassadors of Mali, and they won prices at several important festivals at the time, for instance a Gold Medal at the Dakar Festival des Arts Nègres in 1966, another in Lagos, and at the Festival Panafricain des Arts d'Alger in 1969. Mokontafé performed with the ensemble in Europa, United States and China. As no records were produced in Mali in the 1960s, there are only occasional recordings from neighbouring countries. For instance, in 1965, Mokontafé released a 45rpm single, « Echos du Mali » (Sacko Monkontafé accompagné par Diabaté Mamadou et Sissoko Dialy Madi, Vogue EPL 7.763).

In the 1970s, Mokontafé recorded four albums for the Sonafric label. Her importance to Malian music and society was more than the four albums she produced, she has been around as history was written in the first decade of Mali's independence, and she sung at important occasions. Her music was played on national radio on important days, and she was respected by all for her voice, her charm and her smile. She retired from music in 1990, although in early 2002, she wrote a song at the occasion of the Football African Cup of Nations, that was held in Mali.

Musicians on Les Aigles du Mali:
Ali Wagué flute
Modibo Kouyaté guitar
Solo Diabaté ngoni (4-strings)
Bourama Kouyaté balafon


* According to Eric S. Charry is his book « Mande Music » p.396, she was born in 1937.
Mokontafe Sako


Sources:
Radio Africa Malian vinyl records discography [external link]
Mokontafé Sacko n'est plus: une grande dame à la voix suave et au sourire ravageur, in: l'Essor 27/12/2002 [external link]

Born: 1934 or 1937, died 25 December 2002.
Style: bambara, griot music, praise singing.

Discography:

Title Year Label Remarks
Mokontafe Sako et son ensemble traditionnel 1977 Sonafric SAF 50 059 LP
Les Aigles du Mali 1976 Sonafric SAF 50 033 LP
Spécial Biennale du Mali 1976 Sonafric SAF 50 021 LP
Farafina Moussow 1975 Sonafric SAF 50 012 LP



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