She was on a tour promoting her latest album Tchamantche and as usual Cherif Kieta (a French professor- highly adored and respected by students) worked his magic and got her to perform at Carleton and meet with students. It’s hard to classify her music because it’s a mélange of contemporary rock, blues and world music.
The last time I saw Carleton crowds sway the way they did on Saturday was when the group Acoustic Africa was performing live (courtesy Cherif :) . It was absolutely stirring and invigorating and hard to keep seated. Encouraged by the audience, Rokia and her troupe added extra oomph and teased the crowds controlling all of us with their music. Anyone who would have walked in 15 minutes late would have felt they were walking in on an empty concert hall – only to find seconds later that everyone was standing and swaying by the stage.
Her music was uplifting and powerful. Even though most of it was sung in Bambara and a couple of songs in French, the emotion carried through in the musical strains and the crowd seemed to connect with her in every way. As I sat there, letting her music seep through and through, I reflected on how lucky I was sitting here enjoying this world renowned artist from less that three feet away. In the last 3 ½ years I’ve been able to see new dance forms, music artists, stand up comedians and so much more that I never would’ve imagined seeing in India and what’s simply the icing on the cake is that I haven’t had to spend a penny! The ideology here is that students must experience what they learn and read about, and the academic departments take it upon themselves to make the experience as live and real as they can. They want us to celebrate learning in a way that’s completely different from what I was used to at home. And learning isn’t restricted to bookish knowledge. Rokia talked about the African brain drain and how the continent needs all those minds who’ve left their countries in search of greener pastures. This is learning too- learning and seeing the reality we live in and sometimes are aloof to.
I left the concert feeling moved, empowered somehow - contemplating my actions in the years to come and how they would affect the fate of my country.