News

R.I.P. Chinua Achebe

African literary titan Chinua Achebe sadly passed away today.


Beloved author and poet Chinua Achebe passed away earlier today due to complications from a “brief illness.” The influential author, best known for his masterly depiction of the clash between traditional African values and colonial Western influences, was 82 years old. Although his name has become synonymous with the title of his magnum opus Things Fall Apart --of obvious and special significance to fans of The Roots and their own opus of the same name--Achebe's catalog was deep and his contribution to English literature almost too wide to get your arms around. It’s a sad day not only for the continent and the diaspora but for the written word, period. We'll keep updating below with reactions.

 

He was the complete artist--complex nuanced vexing inventive and dauntingly furiously courageous.  For this writer from the African diaspora, he was a profound influence.  I remember the first time I read him--it was like an awakening. — Junot Diaz (via e-mail)

 

 

"I admired his honesty and uncompromising attitude towards bad leadership in Africa" — Femi Kuti (via e-mail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a lovely quote from a commencement speech Dr. Achebe gave at The New School in 1991: "The power of creation is there in all its magnificence in the myths and legends of the world. I think the life of the world is worth your effort." — Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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