Songs in Many Tongues: ‘Mogoya’ by Oumou Sangaré and ‘Tarim’ (A Uyghur Song)

Known as “The Songbird of Wassoulou”, Oumou Sangaré (b. 1968) is a cultural treasure in her homeland Mali in Africa. Wassooulou is a historical region south of the Niger River, known for its rich musical heritage of songs characterized by a pentatonic style and irresistible loping polyrhythms.

With her deep and sensual voice, Oumou delivers songs that are deeply moving even though they’re in a language few outsiders understand. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that this is not just music for entertainment. As with so much African music, these are songs that are rich in metaphors and poetry and in Oumou’s case, songs that champions women’s rights and exhortations of ethical behavior, The emotions that accompany her moral conviction are authentic, and reverberate at the very heart of her music which, in spite of cultural distance, manages to beguile us.

Here is “Mogoya” (2017), the last track from Oumou’s fifth album of the same name.

‘Tarim’ (A Song from Xinjiang, China)

‘Tarim’ is a Uyghur song from Xinjiang, the most westerly province of China. The song uses the Tarim river as the pull of love, the place where lovers part, but the memories of their love never leave. The version below is sung by husband and wife team Perhat Khaliq and Pezilet Tursun.

Here are the lyrics

I went over the river of Tarim, saying
goodbye to lovers and saying
goodbye to my dreams and love,
goodbye to my dreams and love.
I will work hard by the Tarim.
If you come along here,
I will cover you with flowers,
I will cover you with flowers.

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