Salt and Pepper: The Rise of the Mixed-Race African Songstress

Music is in many ways an exploration of who we are. In recent times, more and more singers of mixed parentage have emerged out of Africa and Europe, adding new flavors to the world music scene..

Thaïs Diarra is one such musician. Born in Switzerland but with roots in Mali and Senegal, her debut album, Métisse, is an exploration of her multiple identities. In its mixture of African instruments such as kora and balafon, with soul, reggae, hip-hop, mbalax and Mandingue vibes, the album can be described as ‘afro soul’. Thaïs sings in English, French, Wolof and Bambara and her songs speak of tolerance and hope, exile, persecution and the day-to-day difficulties faced by Africans living at home and abroad.

With images of migrants perishing at sea or washed up on European shores dominating our screens over the past few weeks, it is increasingly more urgent to look beyond the headlines and look at the lives and realities of migration, Diaspora and mixed identities.

In the first of a three-part series, journalist Maimouna Jallow embarks on a journey of new encounters and celebration through some of Africa’s most talented songstresses. Music becomes a conduit to interrogate their worlds.


Photos from What’s On Africa, where these interviews were first aired, in 2015.

Interview used with permission from Maimouna Jallow.