MAIMOUNATA (“Maï”) LINGANI is one of the most popular singers and songwriters of Burkina Faso, West Africa. She currently divides her time between New York City and Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Maï was born in Koudougou, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), grew up in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and started singing professionally during her late teens. In the mid-1990s, she won several prizes with bands playing styles ranging from reggae to the traditional musics of various Ivoirian ethnicities, and toured nationally. In 1996, she met the musicians Lukas Ligeti (of Austria, now residing in the U.S.) and Kurt Dahlke (of Germany)and participated in the recording of their group Beta Foly’s critically acclaimed CD, her first international release (“Lukas Ligeti & Beta Foly”, Intuition Records, Germany, 1997).
In 1997, Maï relocated to Ouagadougou, where she quickly became one of the most in-demand singers, both as a soloist and as a background vocalist. With the Orchestre Yumba, she was in residence at the Zaka, Ouaga’s premier live music club, and developed her songwriting skills. In 1998, backed by the Yumba, she won the Grand Prix National de la Chanson Moderne Burkinabè, her country’s most important music award; this launched her as a national celebrity, and in the following years, she made countless concert and TV appearances. Reuniting with Beta Foly, she toured Europe in 1999, performing at venues such as the Mozart Hall of the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria; the World Music Meeting in Nijmegen, The Netherlands; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, France. During this time, she was also featured on many concerts and recording sessions of leading artists from Burkina and elsewhere such as Bil Aka Kora, Zedess, Martin N’Terry, and Askia Modibo, recorded in Germany with Kurt Dahlke’s electronica group A Certain Frank (“Nothing”, AtaTak/Caroline, Germany, 2001), and composed music for films by the well-known Burkinabè director, Fanta Régina Nacro. In 2000, she recorded her first solo album, “Entrons dans la danse”, produced by Lukas Ligeti and released by the Burkinabè record label, Seydoni. The music of this album, with Maï’s lyrics in the Moré, Dioula, Bissa, and French languages, combines a deep knowledge of Burkina Faso’s traditional music with the openmindedness of a true musical innovator.
Since 2001, Maï has divided her time between Ouaga and New York. As a voice-electronics duo with Lukas Ligeti and featuring guest artists such as Abdoulaye Diabaté and Dafna Naphtali, she performed in numerous venues such as the United Nations Headquarters, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and Stanford and Sacramento State Universities. They also performed a highly unusual concert as part of the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria, Ligeti playing in a concert hall in Linz, Austria, and Lingani at a radio station in Ouagadougou, connected via a telephone line; the concert was broadcast live in both countries. In America, Maï has also collaborated with artists such as Sylvain Leroux & Source, Balla Tounkara, Francis M’Bappé, Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, Kaleta, New York African Chorus, and many others, performing at clubs in New York and elsewhere; at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture; Floydfest in Floyd, VA; the Nuits d’Afrique Festival in Montreal, and as far afield as the Salmon Run Festival in Kelowna, BC; as an accompanist, she was called to back up fellow African stars such as Monique Seka, Nayanka Bell, King Angelo, and others. She was also featured by seminal jazz artist Paul Winter in his Winter Solstice Celebration concerts at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. In 2004, she co-founded the group Burkina Electric with her longtime associates, Lukas Ligeti, Kurt Dahlke, and Burkinabè guitarist Wende K. Blass. The group’s objective is to bring new concepts to both Burkinabè music and Western club electronica by infusing computer-based performance with rhythms and other elements of Burkinabè traditons. A first, very successful tour took place in Austria in 2004. The group has just finished recording its first CD, which will be released in Burkina Faso in May, 2006, when Burkina Electric will be featured at this year’s Ouagadougou Jazz Festival.