For a number of years, Celtic Connections has warmly embraced artists from what is known (in terms of western perspective), as world music. Quite right. After all, to coin a (distinctly Scottish) phrase, “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns”.
In terms of artists from African music, Oumou Sangaré, one of Mali’s most celebrated divas, is undeniably A-list. She also knows how to make an entrance. Her band precedes Sangaré on stage, since this helps to build what Dr. Frank N. Furter famously described as, a sense of “antici…PATION”.
Early in the set, Sangaré indicates an (unsurprising) intent to showcase songs from Mogoya, her latest album.
Minata Waraba is a song about Sangaré’s mother, however she dedicates it to all the mums in the world. It receives a warm response.
Sangaré announces that tonight she is one of two people named Oumou in the hall. The second being a young woman named after her because, “her parents love me”. Oumou the younger receives a summons to meet her distinguished namesake on stage. It’s a nice moment.
“Are you ready to dance?” Sangaré asks, signalling her own serious intent by removing her shoes. As the song progresses, there is some enthusiastic dancing in the aisles and many people get to their feet. Mass clapping along ensues. Sangaré playfully conducts the audience, as slowly she directs them to descend, before rising back up again.
Introducing Fadjamou, Sangaré informs the audience that family name is very important in Africa. In many cases this reveals the general region (political boundaries being fluid over time) from which someone originates. Sangaré asks, “Are you ready to sing this with me?” As so often, a Glasgow audience shows it is more than happy to subvert the traditional, “Wan singer! Wan song!” rule.
As the band return for the encore, one of the backing singers announces, “Last chance to dance everybody”. Sangaré re-enters the fray. While the anthemic Yala plays, she introduces each of the band in turn and they have an opportunity for a solo. Virtually everyone is on their feet now and dancing.
One of the backing singers hails Sangaré as “Queen of all the Africans”. On tonight’s evidence, it seems one would struggle to find any dissenting voices.