Mokontafe Sako has been one of the most prominent female singers of Mali during the first
two decades after independence. When the short-lived Federation du Mali broke up in August 1960, Mokontafé left
Dakar together with Modibo Keita's delegation to come back to Bamako. Being close to president Keita's family, she
was soon called to select singers and musicians to form the new Ensemble National Instrumental du Mali. This ensemble
was created in order to play at official ceremonies and parties, but also to do research on the various musical traditions from
a variety of cultural regions of the country, such as the Mandé, the Wagadu, the Segou region,
the Kaarta and the Sankoré. Mokontafé was in this case the assistant of the director of the
ensemble, Bourama Sacko.
From 1963 onwards, the Ensemble National were the international cultural ambassadors of Mali, and they won prices at several
important festivals at the time, for instance a Gold Medal at the Dakar Festival des Arts Nègres in 1966, another in
Lagos, and at the Festival Panafricain des Arts d'Alger in 1969. Mokontafé performed with the ensemble in Europa,
United States and China. As no records were produced in Mali in the 1960s, there are only
occasional recordings from neighbouring countries. For instance, in 1965, Mokontafé released a 45rpm single,
« Echos du Mali; » (Sacko Monkontafé accompagné par Diabaté Mamadou et
Sissoko Dialy Madi, Vogue EPL 7.763).
In the 1970s, Mokontafé recorded four albums for the Sonafric label. Her importance to Malian music and society was
more than the four albums she produced, she has been around as history was written in the first decade of Mali's independence,
and she sung at important occasions. Her music was played on national radio on important days, and she was respected by all
for her voice, her charm and her smile. She retired from music in 1990, although in early 2002, she wrote a song at the occasion
of the Football African Cup of Nations, that was held in Mali.
* According to Eric S. Charry's book « Mande Music » p.396, she was born in 1937.
• Musicians on: "Les Aigles du Mali":
Ali Wagué flute
Modibo Kouyaté guitar
Solo Diabaté ngoni (4-strings)
Bourama Kouyaté balafon
Born: 1934 or 1937, died 25 December 2002
Style: mandingo / bambara / griot music /praise singing