Rokia Traoré was recommended to me by iTunes, when I was researching the Seckou Keita Quartet. I thought that she should be featured because her soft voice combines well with traditional Malian music.
Rokia Traoré was born into the nobility of the Bambara ethnic group of Mali, and so she was not encouraged to be a musician. She also defies tradition by playing the acoustic guitar and singing and using vocal harmonies, which are unusual for Mali, in her arrangements. Her father was a diplomat, so this led to her travelling to many countries like Saudi Arabia, France, Belgium and Algeria during her childhood. The travelling is said to have had an influence on her, so I imagine that this in turn influences her music.
If you'd like to listen to more samples of her music, here are the links to her mp3 albums on Amazon: Tchamantché, Bowmboi, Wanita and Mouneïssa.