• Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Fatoumata Diawara, An Afro Icon, you haven’t heard of.

1. A gem is Born, raised, and Crystalized.

Fatoumata Diawara, On Stage. Photo; Courtesy

As low-key as phenomenal icons can be, I feel like no other African Musician, Actress and songwriters can be as lowkey as Fatoumata Diawara. Born in 1982 in Ouragahio, Ivory Coast to Malian parents

In her teens, she moved back to her native town; Bamako in Mali where she was raised by an aunt. Upon turning eighteen, Fatoumata moved to europe, France to pursue an acting career. She would briefly return to Mali for a film role where she conflicted with her family who tried to coerce her into marriage and fled back to Paris.

2. Fatoumata Diawara As An Actress.

In France, Diawara would secure movie roles in Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s 1999 feature film Genesis, Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, le rêve du python, and in an international hit street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe. She also went on to play a leading role in the musical Kirikou et Karaba.

Fatoumata Diawara captured stage performance. Photo; Courtesy.

Fatoumata’s interest in music wasn’t forgotten, as along with her acting career she would pursue her musical career, Diawara has since continued to win in movie and cinema industry, with numerous roles, appearances, and musical features in multiple themed films, including in Timbuktu, which won seven César Award nods and an Academy Award nomination in 2014.

3. Fatoumata Diawara As A Composer, Songwriter and Musician.

Fatoumata Diawara shot for the FT by © samuel kirszenbaum

Diawara later picked up the guitar an instrument she would grow her notability from and began composing her own material, writing songs that blended Wassoulou traditions her culture from southern Mali with international inspirations. She has said that she is “the first female solo electric guitar player in Mali”.

What Language Does Fatoumata Sing In?

When I first listen to my first ever Fatoumata’s Song; Sowa. I was blown away by her “sensuous voice,” She had a different sound, far different from the usual Female Afro stars we’ve grown to revere. Hers was soothing, with bubbling highs and lows and blended beautifully with her guitar and folk instruments. Ican only describe the experience in One word; Phenomenal.

Diawara sings primarily in Bambara, Mali’s national language, and builds her music genre based on the tradition of “songs of advice” from the culture of her ancestral Wassoulou region

4. What Genre Is Fatoumata’s Music And What Albums Has She Released?

Fatoumata’s music is categorized as Folk Music and in specific; Wassoulou ,Mali blues.

Diawara has performed or recorded with Malian and international stars such as Cheick Tidiane Seck, Oumou Sangaré, AfroCubism, Dee Dee Bridgewater (on Red Earth: A Malian Journey), and the Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou. Her EP Kanou was released May 9, 2011. She wrote every song on her debut album Fatou  under World Circuit Records that released in September 2011. Nonesuch Records released the Kanou EP digitally in North America on September 27, 2011, and the album Fatou on August 28, 2012.)

Diawara has spent recent years touring the world, with a landmark performance for the English-speaking public at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival. Alongside many European gigs, her schedule has taken her to South America, Asia and Australia, as well as on multiple trips to the US, where in September 2013 she performed as part of the Clinton Global Initiative alongside The Roots in New York. Since mid-2014 she has collaborated with Roberto Fonseca, with numerous live performances and a joint live album, At Home – Live in Marciac, along the way.

In 2014 she also performed with Mayra Andrade and Omara Portuondo. February 2015 saw her first live concert as an established international star in Mali, her home country, Festival Sur Le Niger in Ségou, where she shared the stage once again with her long-time friend and mentor, Oumou Sangaré ,Bassekou Kouyate, and many other domestic Malian acts.

5. What Are Some Of The Social Issues Fatoumata’s Songs Address?

In her songs, Diawara has addressed issues such as the pain of emigration; a need for mutual respect; the struggles of African women; life under the rule of religious fundamentalists, and the practice of female circumcision. One song that exemplifies her focus on these topics is “Mali-ko (Peace/La Paix)”, a seven-minute song and video that blasts the fundamentalist conquest of Northern Mali and urges unity to quell resentment against the Tuareg minority whom some blamed for abetting the incursion. Diawara said about the song, “I needed to scream with this song, ‘Wake up! We are losing Mali! We are losing our culture, our tradition, our origins, our roots!'”.

I hope this introduces you to one of Africa’s Music Gems. See you next time.

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