The terrible child of Malian rap, a wide harem pants suit on his back, delivers his muscular verses in Bambara on the forecourt of the Montreuil theater, in the Paris region. Ami Yerewolo sings the reality of a country affected by a security and political crisis that a good part of the audience does not know. But, in this sunny late afternoon, it unites all audiences. The crowd is mixed. Uncles, aunties, young people from the diaspora and people from the capital bustle together to the rhythm of drumbeats and electronic beats.
At 31, the native of Mahina – a small town located in the Kayes region – carries within her a passion that only combative people know. As proof, after a decade of trouble looking for a producer and making a name for herself in the very closed and masculine circle of French-speaking rap, the former independent artist was approached by Blick Bassy, darling of the decolonial intelligentsia and the trendy music press.
Proud of its origins
Aminata Dianoko, her real name, finally sees her efforts rewarded et becomes the first artist to sign on Othantik AA, the label of the Cameroonian singer and producer. And publishes in 2021, after two self-produced albums, Ay. A recognition for the one who began her career in the balani shows of Bamako, unpretentious neighborhood balls. “Blick Bassy allowed me to tour internationally. This signing was a real opportunity, ”slips the Amazon, who has nevertheless decided not to renew her contract, which comes to an end in September.
For Malian rapper Ami Yerewolo, salvation through the network
After a marathon summer tour, spent treading the French stages, she returns home. “After ten years as an independent, it’s complicated to work with a label. Blick did his best for two years, so did I. We will continue our journeys, ”says the one who takes her stage name from the expression “yerewolo den”, which means “proud of her origins”. “There, I feel that I have to return to Mali to think about the rest of my career in the best conditions. I need this time to reflect. »
We can’t live our passion, our desires and have ambition
But if there is one thing Ami is certain of, it’s the importance of visibility and recognition for female artists. “We can be counted on the fingers of one hand, we African rappers. It’s representative of the way women are treated in our societies, accuses this fan of French rapper Diam’s and African-American Missy Elliott. We cannot live our passion and our desires, have ambition… They want to see us married and mothers, certainly not standing on the front of a stage to carry a speech reserved for men, ”she believes.
“We put a spoke in the wheel for all the Malian rappers who could see their career take off. There is too much pressure from family, society and showbiz, who perceive rappers as sexual objects or who feel that they have no say in the matter, ”protests the one who has toured with the collective of rappers Jokko Fam – which brings together Malian, Mauritanian, Senegalese and Moroccan artists – in isolated villages to encourage the schooling of little girls.
Mali also has female rappers
We feel anger in the voice, weariness too. This free spirit, who does not claim to be a feminist, only wants to rely on herself to move the lines. In 2017, she created the festival Mali also has rappers, which organizes concerts, but also training workshops and a competition for budding rappers, therefore. A demonstration that the former student in finance at the University of Bamako manages on own funds. “I donate 5% of my artist’s fees to set up each edition,” she confides.
Raised by griot grandparents who told her tales around the fire, Ami was also rocked to the sound of traditional Mandinka music carried by key figures such as Salif Keita and Oumou Sangaré. Legends that have an impact on populations.
This is also the ambition of the rapper, to raise awareness by “talking about the problems of society”. In 2020, she addressed, in verse and prose, an “open letter” to Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), then President of Mali, before the country became the scene of a first putsch. “If someone had told me that the country would evolve in this way, I would not have believed it. I was never interested in politics, but when the Covid pandemic hit, the government copied its model from France by ordering us to stay at home. However, the State does not help us financially when we cannot work! she is indignant. We had to talk. Three months later, there was the coup. Then the others followed. Young people can’t take it anymore and are drowning in the oceans. Fortunately there is culture. Politically, the country is K.-O., but culturally, it is still standing”, concludes the artist, who intends to prove it during the 5e edition of its festival, which will be held from August 15 to 20 in Bamako.
Discover the program of the Banlieues Bleues festival (until 24 July) ici