Biographie

Khaira Arby, was born in the village of Abaradjou in the Sahara Desert north of Timbuktu (Mali). The daughter of a Tuareg father and a Songhai mother, Khaira Arby started singing at the age of eleven in the Timbuktu troupe back in 1972.

Over the years, Khaira Arby’s popularity rose and she was increasingly in demand to sing at weddings, parties and circumcisions. After being given in marriage to a man who also refused to let her sing, like many of his contemporaries, she put her career on hold to focus on home life. The frustration proved too strong and she ended up divorcing, then joined Mali’s National Badema band before embarking on a solo career in the early 1990s. Armed with a strong will and independent nature, she was the first woman to release an album in her own name in the Timbuktu region.

Her first studio recording, Moulaye, was primarily a reaction to current events in the region: 1992 was a period of Tuareg rebellion, inter-ethnic confrontation in the north and massive exodus. Her first album was a call for peace. Since then, the town of Timbuktu has regularly been the scene of violent clashes between the Tuareg communities and the Malian army.

Her whole artistic career has followed the political and social events in the region: for twenty years she has been calling for union and singing in almost every language spoken in Mali: Songhai, Fula, Tamasheq, Bambara and even French. Her strong position has earned her a great deal of respect in northern Mali, and since 2010 she has regularly been invited to the United Nations assembly to sing about peace. Khaira Arby’s unusual voice carries with it all of Timbuktu’s cultural richness, its inescapable mystery and entire history, right up to the present day.

The instrumentation and rhythms are just as varied with electric guitar and bass, calabash, ngoni, traditional violin, and percussion creating a complex mixture of sound and structure. Some people compare the effect to the rhythms of the camel caravans crossing the Sahara. Khaïra sings in the desert blues tradition and her music takes the listener on an audio journey across the essence of Mali and Timbuktu, a meeting of compass points, religions, cultures, past and present. She sings about love, peace, family and the lives of women. She expresses her pride in the history and struggles of her desert homeland and its people.

From 2010 through 2013, Khaïra Arby with her Band toured extensively in Europe, the United States and Canada performing to cheering audiences at venues ranging from small Harlem nightclubs to Bimhuis in Amsterdam and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. She has performed at major music festivals such as WOMAD, Sfinks, ATP, SXSW, Oya Festival Oslo, Globalquerque!, Chicago WorldFest, Afrika Festival NL, the Jewish Culture Festival Krakow Poland, Oye Africa Liverpool, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Sauti Basura Zanzibar, Festival Taragalte Morocco and many more.

With four albums released in her own name she is the Voice of Mali's North.