Songlines | Malian Singer Khaira Arby dies aged 59
23 August 2018

Malian Singer Khaira Arby dies aged 59

By Charlotte Algar

Malian singer Khaira Arby has died in a Bamako hospital aged just 59, her US tour manager Christopher Nolan announced yesterday.

Khaira Arby-©Chris Nolan2-Free.jpg

©Christopher Nolan

"I want to teach the daughters of the world, teach them to think, to value themselves, to sing."

Born in a village where female public singing was frowned upon, and not to a griot family, Khaira Arby's path to fame was a rocky one. Her family resented her choices, forcing her to marry at just 16 to a husband whom she later divorced, as he got in the way of her singing. Despite these hardships, she gained international prominence, with a little help from her relative (through marriage) Ali Farka Touré.

Dubbed 'The Nightingale of Timbuktu', Arby's dedication to her home town shines through in her material. Her most successful album is proudly entitled Timbuktu Tara (released in 2010 and reviewed in #86).

An outspoken critic of government corruption, FGM and the civil war who featured in Johanna Schwartz's excellent documentary, They Will Have To Kill Us First, Khaira Arby will surely remain a figurehead in the rich history of Malian music in years to come. 

A full obituary will be published in #142 (out September 28).

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