Show: With Sinkane on Friday at Lisner Auditorium. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-994-6800. lisner.gwu.edu. $25-$45.
Rokia Traoré’s sixth album, “Né So,” is dominated by the West African sounds of this Malian woman’s quiet, breathy voice, backed by sympathetic singers and syncopated, broken-chord figures played on guitar and ngoni (the banjo’s African ancestor). When, in the French-language song “Tu Voles,” Traoré describes her happy self as turning and fluttering through air like a butterfly, she could be describing the way she sings her lilting melodies. In her new video for the song “Ilé,” sung in Bambara, she airily dismisses the haters, gliding over the nudge-and-tug rhythms to sing, “Spare me your deeds that darken the heart.”
The album begins with love songs and celebrations of right-acting men and underappreciated women, but it pivots with a version of Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching allegory, “Strange Fruit,” sung in English. That’s followed by the trilingual title track, a like-minded lament for the more than five million refugees on the move in 2014, fleeing violence and seeking a home, somewhere “to place my dreams.”
The presence on the album of such Westerners as Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, PJ Harvey’s producer John Parish and freak-folk figure Devendra Banhart may give the wrong idea. This is not a case of a third-world performer chasing a big payday by crossing over, nor a case of rockers “fusing” inappropriate rhythms to a folk tradition. This is a case of musicians attracted to Traoré’s nuanced songwriting and understated singing, and adding tasteful support in the background.