I have an ambivalent feeling about talent shows. Of course, I know what is shown there is mostly an illusion – that those average-looking people with tremendous voices don’t just walk in the studio from the street, that the show itself is edited on the basis of cold economic interests, and even that nobody can stay too long in the music industry only with singing other people’s songs well. And still, I’d like to believe in some fairy tales when some lucky artist can profit from this special format. After years of hard work, practice, success in closer circles, many musicians really deserve national recognition and money. And there are some people who win even more in a talent show…
The ones who won each other’s love
The Toukan Goura is the national talent show of Mali, similar to the Pop Idol shows. It started in 2010 and had singer Djeneba Kouyate as its first winner. She came from the social group of the griots who are traditionally singers and storytellers. As it is common in talent shows, she was invited for the second year to sing a duet with a male singer still in competition, Fousseyni ’Fousco’ Sissoko, a griot himself. At rehearsals and on stage, air was totally hot, and not only because the show editors decided to bring together two great performers. It might be the influence of this sudden love that Sissoko did a great job in the show and won Toukan Goura in 2011. The couple got married in 2012, and nowadays they are more than occasional duet partners: they became permanent collaborators, founders of the band Djeneba & Fousco.
Reviewers usually point out that Djeneba’s singing and style is unique. She has, as one of them explains, an unbelievable power and commandment in her voice, whereas she opens up completely in front of the audience and doesn’t even hide her vulnerability. Fousco is praised for his guitar and songwriting skills apart from his voice. The married couple is proud of their griot backgrounds and of starting their musical development in their families’ home. Their first record is called Kayeba khasso, dedicated to their native land Kayes (a region in Mali with a city of the same name as its centre). The album, acknowledged at the international music market, helped the two former winners of the Malian talent show to conquer foreign countries as well, just like Hungary.
The one who became her country’s number one musical representative
Nancy Vieira was born in Bissau-Guinea to Cape Verdean parents. By the time, the Portuguese Colonial War just ended a year ago, Bissau-Guinea was already independent, the colonizer itself was shaken by a revolution, and the Vieira family kept their fingers crossed from far away to see their homeland gain its own independence. Eventually they moved back to Cape Verde where Nancy spent her early years, but as her father was appointed as ambassador of the Republic on Cape Verde in Portugal, she moved to Lisbon with fourteen.
It was already evident from her childhood on that Nancy has a unique, kind of smoky, jazzy kind of voice, but it also fits to dance and disco songs as well. At first, she didn’t even think about making music as a way to earn her living: just like it is expected from an ambassador’s daughter, she started Sociology and Management at the university. However, as it happens in such cases, her talent and fortune intervened at the same time. A disco announced a song competition, and Nancy signed up for it just for fun with a song called Lua nha testemunha – then she immediately won the show and let herself flow in the direction of a musical career. With 20, she already published her first record called Nôs Raça (approximately Our Race) that mixes Cape Verdeian rhythms and a traditional African sound with Portuguese, Latin American, Caribbean influences.
Since then, Nancy Vieira has already produced four more albums; she works together with well-acclaimed Portuguese performers and goes on tours throughout Europe. Nowadays, even her father doesn’t have to worry about anymore whether it’s a bad decision to choose an artistic career rather than a civil profession. The daughter of the former Cape Verdean ambassador usually has been called – after the death of her predecessor, the legendary Cesária Évora, and having some of her former singers in her group – the musical ambassador of the Republic of Cape Verde.