Founded in Bamako back in 2014 by three renowned Malian artists and social change activities Mamani Keïta, Oumou Sangaré and Amadou & Mariam‘s Mariam Doumbia, Les Amazones d’Afrique is a All-Star collective of female, West African artists that embraces international voices through a meshing of heritage and new generation talent while advocating for the rights of women and girls across the continent and elsewhere. Since their formation, the collective has expanded to involve female artists from across Africa and the African Diaspora, including Angélique Kidjo, Nneka, and rising Malian artist Rokia Koné.
Through the release of two critically applauded, Doctor L-produced albums, 2017’s République Amazone, which landed on The Guardian‘s Top 50 of 2017 and 2020’s Amazones Power, which was featured on President Barack Obama’s Spotify playlist, the collective firmly cemented a sound that blends a number of African styles and richly melodic, collaborative harmonies with gritty, contemporary pop. Adding to a growing profile internationally, the members of the pan-African collective have played Glastonbury Festival‘s Pyramid Stage and BBC’s Later . . . with Jools Holland.
Les Amazones d’Afrique’s third album, the forthcoming Jacknife Lee-produced Musow Danse is slated for a February 16, 2023 release through Real World Records. The album reportedly sees the collective embracing a contemporary pop that draws from contemporary hip-hop and trap and is driven by 808s and glitchy synths while still vociferously campaigning for gender equality and the eradication of ancestral violence.
The All-Star collective’s latest single, and first off their forthcoming album, the sleek and hyper modern “Kuma Fo (What They Say)” features five members of the collective — longtime members Mamani Keïta, Fafa Ruffino and Kandy Guira and new members Alvie Bitemo, an activist and actress from Congo-Brazzaville and renowned Ivorian artist Dobet Gnahoré — singing in the native languages from Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, C’ôte d’Ivoire, and Congo-Brazzaville. Built around stuttering 808s, glitchy synths and the collective’s gorgeous powerhouse vocals, “Kuma Fo (What They Say)” is a seamless synthesis of the ancient and contemporary that’s roomy enough for each artist to showcase their unique talents while still rooted in a powerfully relevant social message, advocating for women to step out and seize their place at the proverbial table.
“‘Kuma Fo’ is about women’s freedom of expression.” Alvie Bitemo says. “It’s about speaking up — not asking, not waiting for us to be given the floor. We need to seize it.”
When you look at the Amazons of Dahomey, it was female warriors who made the decisions and took power. It feels like since colonization, certain countries in Africa have moved further away from women’s rights. And in this song, we say that if you bring life into the world, you educate, you organize the family, then you should reclaim your power: your female power.”
Directed by Valérie Malot and Odhrán Mullan, the gorgeous and cinematically shot video was mostly shot in Morocco during the collective’s visit to perform at last summer’s Gnaoua World Music Festival in Essaouira — and displays the collective’s women with their regal, self-assured power and in gorgeous traditional outfits.