By Aditi Maheshwari
Les Amazones d’Afrique, a group of women musicians from Africa aims to empower women and speak against violence. It is their founding principle to take initiative to empower women against all sorts of violence like spousal abuse, second-class treatment, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, etc. The outset of Les Amazones d’Afrique dates back to 2014. Valérie Malot, head of the booking, publishing, and management firm 3dFamily, encouraged several star singers to take an initiative and unitedly fight against violence against women in Africa and beyond. The consequent 2017 album, “République Amazone,” featured notable Malian artists such as Oumou Sangaré, Mamani Keïta, Angeìlique Kidjo, and Mariam Doumbia.
Tiguidanké Diallo influenced by the feminist outlook inspired by her mother, who records under the name Niariu, joined the African female group Les Amazones d’Afrique. Her full of spirit staccato thrusts “Heavy,” the first single from the group’s new record, “Amazones Power.” She’s also the sole figure on the album cover. On Jan. 24, 2020, the second album by the musical group whose lyrics focus on women’s rights was launched. Its fluid, evolving lineup includes lead singers from Mali, Algeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso. The highlight of the project isn’t just producer Liam Farrell, aka Doctor L. “The first album was to talk about and fight against the violence against women,” says Niariu. “This album is really about empowerment, sisterhood, and love.” “In the second album, emphasis was more in talking about the violence on the women, but that can also be perpetrated by women,” says Niariu, noting that female circumcision is often performed by women. “So, it was also a way of, first of all, uplifting women again, but also make us realize the strength that we have and how we can change things together.”
The multilingual group whose lyrics focus on women’s rights garnered appreciation from NPR “There’s no mistaking the talent and vision these spectacular vocalists share” and Rolling Stone “[a] hard-funking, future-minded collaboration”. Barack Obama named “La Dame et Ses Valises” “The Woman and Her Suitcases” one of his favourite songs of 2017.
Les Amazones d’Afrique’s dub-influenced electronica, entwined with Afrobeat rhythm and West African guitar, is anchored by Fafa Ruffino, Kandy Guira, Rokia Koné, Niariu, and Ms. Keïta. Niariu recalls being performing in an underground Parisian group when she was invited to come to the studio to write and sing.
Several songs pair male and female vocalists. This isn’t just artistic; it’s also symbolic. Men have their part to play in feminism, says Niariu. “Femininity is in everyone – male and female,” she says, praising Jon Grace and Boy-Fall from the group Nyoko Bokbae for their emotional sensitivity on their shared song. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not masculine enough. That means today I embrace my feminine side. And that’s something that I think males have to understand, society has to understand because there’s a lot of pressure of what we call masculinity.”
The singer appreciates women embracing masculine qualities, such as strength. “Heavy” is a tribute to female entrepreneurs such as Boy-Fall’s Senegalese grandmother, an immigrant who launched a successful hair salon in Paris. Niariu cites single mothers as another example of women who embody both masculinity and femininity. Her own mother is among them she states. “In her youth, she was that cool kid, a rebel,” Niariu says, shaving her head, piercing her nose, and wearing leather. “And then she got married- her life changed completely and she didn’t have the resources to be able to follow her dreams.” Without going into details of her mother’s marital experience as an immigrant from Guinea, she shared there were “a lot of really desperate moments.” The aunts who helped raise Niariu inspired the song “Smile.” “This message is a way to speak for my mom, who needed and still needs this sisterhood,” she says. “It’s a message … to everyone that had the same story or is going through the same things and also trying to break this cycle.”
The final track in the album, “Power,” convenes 16 vocalists to ingeminate the same cause. It’s a universal rallying cry for ending violence against women and ringing in equality and respect.
“Without women holding this world together, we wouldn’t be at peace,” she says. “Women are the glue that sticks people together as a society.” Equality and fair representation are a must to demolish the great disparity in the number of women in various fields but the real problems lie with people who think nothing is wrong. Les Amazones d’Afrique from the music industry has taken an opportunity to change views of people who are still confined to orthodox views of female role in the society.