World Music Matters

Senegal's Maréma hits the road to success

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Following her debut Paris concert in early May, Maréma talks to us about being the RFI "discovery" 2014 and shaking up Senegal's ubiquitous mbalax music. 

P.René Worms/RFI

Maréma sings in Wolof, Bambara and French and says her ambition is to be an international star, "win lots of prizes and represent her country all over the world".

"What like Angelique Kidjo?" I ask.  "No, like Maréma," she fires back.

The 29-year old from the suburbs of Dakar knows where she's going, and believes hard work will take her there. Like the women from the fish market in Dakar who inspired her hit single "Femme d'affaires" (businesswoman)  who sweat it out to support their families, and "don't rely on men".

She's always sung. Her mother - a fan of folk singer-songwriter Tracey Chapman - introduced her to a range of music beyond Senegal's ever-present mbalax.

She spent three years at Douta Seck music school in Dakar and sang backing vocals for many years with Senegal's big names like Didier Awadi or Idrissa Diop, before deciding to go solo two years ago. 

Conductor and musician Mao Otayeck, a mandingue from Cote d’Ivoire, is helping her create a sound that can travel beyond the African continent. Having worked alongside Alpha Blondy and Stevie Wonder, he's arranged her songs, giving an international twist to the Senegalese and Mauritanian rhythms she masters so well.

She's blessed with a great voice, huge stage presence and accompanied by talented musicians.

Her debut Paris concert at Pan Piper, was part of the RFI prize. There’ll be many more.

Debut album due out by end of 2015.

Maréma is currently on tour, follow her on facebook.

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