Traore's musical style, however, has little in common with the griottes. Unlike their signature wailing sound, her voice is smooth and gentle, and her arrangements, while somewhat minimalist, make use of both traditional instruments like the balafon, n'goni, and kora, and the acoustic guitar and electric bass. That sound is evident on her debut release, Mouneissa, from 1998, but most evident on her 2000 release, Wanita. For Wanita, Traore wrote and arranged the entire album, seizing the controls from a male engineer who believed that a young girl was incapable of handling the production of an album. The result shows a deeply personal and individual style that reflects both innovation and tradition.
She followed the set with Bowmboï in 2003, her first release for Nonesuch and co-produced by Judith Sherman and Thomas Weill; she handled all the band's arrangements. She recorded 2008's Tchamantché for UNI Jazz in Europe. After a five-year recording break, Traore surprised fans by releasing her first rock record, Beautiful Africa. Produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey), it was released in April 2013. Her second collaboration with Parish, 2016's Né So, continued to push boundaries and featured contributions from John Paul Jones, Toni Morrison, and Devendra Banhart, as well as Traore's long-time ngoni player Mamah Diabaté. ~ Stacia Proefrock, Rovi