BAMAKO - Malian singer Khaira Arby, whose vocal prowess earned her the honorific “The Nightingale of Timbuktu,” has died, her family said on Monday. She was 59.
One of a generation of legendary musicians from the ancient northwestern Malian city, Arby became a major voice for peace in her troubled country.
“My aunt died on Sunday in a hospital in Bamako. (She) will be buried on Monday in an official ceremony,” her nephew Amadou Diallo, a teacher, said in Timbuktu.
Arby began her musical career at the age of 11, developing powerful, swooping vocal skills that earned her glowing international reviews in 2010 with the album “Timbuktu Tarab” — a showcase for the diversity of Malian music.
Her songs were sung in Arabic, Bambara, Tamasheq and Songhai, languages reflecting the diverse ethnic mix of the vast Sahel country.
Many carried a strong social theme, touching on fame empowerment, female genital mutilation and the suffering of a country struggling with ethnic and jihadi violence.
Culture Minister Ndiaye Ramatoulaye Diallo said Malians felt “great sadness” at Arby’s death.
“Some called her ‘The Nightingale of Timbuktu’ but the truth is that, from the Berber blues of the Sahara to mandingo groove, she was also open to diversity, soaking up the fertile breath of mixity, taking up her social role as a weaver of links” between communities, she said.
“She was like a link between northern and southern Mali,” Ismael Diallo, a researcher at the National University of Bamako, told AFP.