Her song, like her life, is simple and dignified.
She stands at the center of the ceremonial circle of sisters, her face raised toward the searing midday sun.As she sings, the children who cling to their mothers' skirts become quiet, lulled by the mesmerizing chant.
She is the designated soloist of her African village - a position of obvious honor.
We listen with solemnity, as if participating in prayer.
An interpreter translates the singer's native Bambara melody:
People are not the same in the way they grow crops
People are not the same in their intelligence
People are not the same in the way they help each other
One people is not better than another
But our friends are the best.
As if adding their "Amen," the village women sitting around her echo each line of the thanksgiving chant for the newly dug water well.
Spontaneous, jubilant cheering and dancing suddenly break the reverence. Women with infants strapped on their backs, young girls cuddling their baby sisters, and age-bent matriarchs simultaneously clap their hands, beat drums or rattle hand-painted gourds.
Grinning and grabbing our hands, they invite us to dance.
As the villagers giggle at our awkward attempt to keep pace with the frenzied clattering of drums and we, in turn, coax them into trying a version of the American twist, a communication is established and celebrated. It is a bond between women living a world apart who are not the same but who are friends.