Khaïra Arby, “The Nightingale of the North” is a singer from Mali. She is from the desert- from Agouni, north of Timbuktu, Mali, and cousin to Ali Farka Touré. She sings in Sonrai, Arabic, Tamashek, accompanied by instruments and rhythms just as varied, with electric guitar and trickling beats, calabash, traditional violin and guitar, and drumming that creates that abrupt squared sound of the music from that part of Mali.
Like Khaïra herself, her music travels on an audio journey the essence of Mali - a meeting of compass points, religion, culture, the past and present. She sings about marriage, love, peace, the lives of the people from the region she comes from, development and democracy. The tracks on the ‘Ya Rassoul’ album are lovely and long - some over 6 minutes. There is ‘Amandiath’ which showcases that unique round sound of the traditional guitar. The production is so good you can hear the player’s fingers tugging the strings, accompanied by the harsh haunting sound of the violin. Then the funky electric sound of ‘Ehe Youma’ with its intricate guitar moves, the soft slow bass guitar and all the while the call and response of the vocals, with the ‘response’ of the chorus just managing to hold down Khaïra’s soaring ‘call’. The language is new too - soft rounded vowels, rolling r’s, guttural sounds - words like ‘biobini’ pronounced ‘bwaibini’ , the curvaceous ‘sourgou’. Timing is everything - the layering, pausing and meandering of the music and instruments that act as a backdrop and allow Khaïra’s voice to run free.