“I want to talk to you, but I have a problem,” Oumou Sangaré tells an adoring Village Underground crowd who greet each of her songs with jubilation. “My problem,” the Malian songstress laughs, “is English.”
But, when it comes to “The Songbird of Wassoulou”, something as trivial as language is no barrier. After all, the vast majority of people rejoicing inside this packed Shoreditch venue don’t understand a single word of the Bambara language she sings in. That’s a testament to her glorious voice, refined and finessed over almost five decades of performance. A singer from the age of five, she knows how to pack a single phrase with more emotion than most vocalists get into an entire song.