Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili

September 29, 2021

In the Spirit

Listening Post 320. Beauty happens when an artist arranges disparate parts and pieces into a fixed space, making arresting sense of out of confusion. Kady Diarra’s third album is a cornucopia of pleasures and wisdom, reflecting her life, her homeland (Burkina Faso), her region (West Africa) and her griot heritage. Her songs, conveyed by her extraordinary voice and magnetic personality, are entertaining to be sure, but also nurturing. She is rooted and nomadic, blending the sounds of balafon, ngoni and Fula flute with guitar and bass; though she has lived in France for the past two decades her band is familial—her daughter, three nephews and two adopted French-born musicians. Recorded in her garden south of Lyon, the 11 tracks of Burkina Hakili (The Spirit of Burkina) spring from a unitary but multi-cultural nation and represent universal values, qualities and challenges: Patience and avarice, good fortune and poverty, honesty and hypocrisy, migration and a world to all appearances in rapid decline. It seems fitting that Diarra performs this layered and blended opus in five languages—none of which is foreign to her. Darkness has charms in Sou (The Night, video 1), a trance-like exploration of waning light that awakens freedom, desire and the motivation for parties. Joyous and incisive, Mousso (Women, video 2) honors the incomparable force that sustains and advances societies. In Nata (Greed, video 3), a relaxed pace symbolizes how easily negative energy can emerge and wreak havoc in human affairs; while Zouawé (Contempt, video 4) shows how disrespect can be self-destructive as well as harmful to others. Mougnoun (Patience, video 5) counsels forgiveness and forbearance to achieve peace of mind and move forward. In music that’s traditional and modern, complex yet uncomplicated, focused yet polyglot, Kady Diarra sings her ideas into celebrations that add to our understanding of an often chaotic world. (Lamastrock)

Language note. On Burkina Hakili, Kady Diarra sings in five languages, all of which are part of her story: Her native Bwa (also known as Bwaba or Bwamu); Bambara, first language of her Mali-born mother; Mossi (Mooré), Burkina Faso’s most widely spoken language, especially in the capital city, Ouagadougou; Dioula, widely spoken in the western part of the country, including the Diarra family home town of Bobo-Dioulasso; and French, Burkina Faso’s official language and also the region’s lingua franca.

Kady Diarra: Burkina Hakili / The Spirit of Burkina
Kady Diarra : Lead vocals
Assetou Koïta : Chorus
Moussa Koïta : Bass, chorus
Samba Diarra : Percussions, flute, chorus
Mabouro “Smifa” Diarra : Balafon, n’goni, percussions, chorus
Thierry Servien : Guitar
Olivier Kikteff : Guitar, bass

All lyrics : Kady Diarra
Music : Samba Diarra, Mabouro “Smifa” Diarra, Moussa Koïta, Thierry Servien


Sou / The Night
Sung in Dioula & Bwaba

Sou describes how night encourages some forms of freedom, enabling ecstasy in life, awakening our desires and joys. When the night falls, and the weekend comes, everyone goes out to party.


Mousso / Women
Sung in Bambara & French

A tribute to women’s role in society, exploring their strength, intelligence and talents. The song thanks women for all they bring to societies around the world.


Nata / Greed
Sung in Dioula

Nata explores how greed ruins many things, from marriages and friendships to the overall spirit of brotherhood. Some greedy men also take advantage of women’s distress in service of their own  satisfaction.


Zouawé / Contempt
Sung in Bwaba & Mossi (Mooré)

The song describes the contempt we can sometimes feel for our fellow humans, looking down on others, forgetting that everything can change overnight, that who is last today may be first tomorrow.


Mougnoun / Patience
Sung in Bwaba

Forgiveness and patience are often necessary to move forward. Forgiving allows us to live a better life, to have peace of mind.



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