Roskilde 2023: Rokia Koné graces the Avalon Stage with aplomb

REVIEW ★★★☆☆☆ Mali’s next big thing produces a mixed show at Roskilde’s Avalon Stage.

Following in the footsteps of the greats of Mali, a nation whose musical heritage speaks for itself, Rokia Koné sauntered casually onto Roskilde’s Avalon stage with a nonchalant demeanour about her. 

On she came to face the warm summer evening, pacing like a cat on velvet feet.

She was flanked by two back-up singers whose talents consigned strictly to the backdrop: a guitarist and keyboard player who looked as if he was the one on stage that enjoyed the show the most throughout.

Mixed fortunes
There have also been whispers of diva traits (for better or worse) from some of her performances recently, so it was always going to be interesting to see if she lived up to the hype – and indeed if she could match some of the vigour and flair of the Malian greats who have graced Roskilde over the years (no easy feat, mind you). 

To be frank, Koné seemed dissonant and evanescent from the get-go, as a mixed crowd of diehard music bods who know their Led Zeppelin from Tinariwen and others who were doing what we all ought to every once and again – diving well and truly outside of our comfort zone.

Things were procedural and lacking in showmanship initially but Koné got into her groove slowly, as tracks like ‘Shezita’, ‘Bi Ye Tulonba Ye’  and ‘Nyanyan’ made their mark and rose above the ether. 

Walking the path of the Malian greats
Attesting to the above, Koné addressed the crowd for the first time quite a few songs in, bound undoubtedly by the language barrier (she spoke in French). Her musical dedication to her mother was relatable and marked a new tangent in the concert, as things genuinely got better from here. 

As the Avalon tent grew with time, as more and more concert-goers were drawn to the intimate settings, so too did Koné’s stage presence and indeed the overall performance. There were indistinguishably memorable moments of magic that showed just why she is as hyped as she is right now, yet equally there is quite a way to go still when it comes to striding the path paved by the Malian greats of the mould of Tinariwen, Rokia Traoré and others that have graced Roskilde in years past.