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Fatoumata Diawara

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  • June 19, 2015

    Songlines magazine has posted its list of the Top 25 Mali Albums, originally from the July 2013 issue of the magazine, and included are several artists and albums familiar to readers of the Nonesuch Journal: Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabaté, Amadou & Mariam, Rokia Traoré, Oumou Sangare, and Fatoumata Diawara. "Mali remains a wellspring of great music and culture," says Songlines. "After much deliberation, we are proud to present the top 25 albums to come from Mali, reminding us that there is an endless amount to celebrate in its music."

  • March 10, 2015

    Singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, who was born of Malian parents in the Ivory Coast, spoke with PBS NewsHour about the struggle to preserve Mali's rich musical heritage under the shadow of ongoing violence there. "If we want the best for Africa, the only—the first thing to do is to know how to bring peace," says Diawara. "Without peace, nothing, we cannot start any kind of government. Nothing, nothing’s possible." You can watch the piece here.

  • about Fatoumata Diawara

    Fatoumata Diawara (a.k.a. Fatou) was born of Malian parents in the Ivory Coast in 1982. As a child she became a member of her father’s dance troupe and was a popular performer of the wildly flailing didadi dance from Wassoulou, her ancestral home in western Mali. She was an energetic and headstrong girl and at the age of 12 her refusal to go to school prompted her parents to send her to live and be disciplined by an aunt in Bamako. She was not to see her parents again for more than a decade.

    Her aunt was an actress, and a few years after arriving, Diawara found herself on a film set looking after her aunt’s infant child. The film’s director was captivated by Diawara’s adolescent beauty and she was given a one-line part in the final scene of the film Taafe Fangan (The Power of Women). This led to a lead role in a film by the celebrated director Cheick Omar Sissoko: 1999’s La Genèse (Genesis).

    At the age of 18 Diawara travelled to Paris to perform the classical Greek role of Antigone on stage. After touring with the production she returned to Mali where she was given the lead in Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, The Dream of the Python. The film tells the story of a West African legend called Sia, a young girl who defies tradition. To many in Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Burkina Faso, Diawara is Sia thanks to the film’s enormous success throughout the region.

    Offers for further acting roles poured in but Diawara’s family wanted her to settle down and marry and forced her to announce, live on Malian television, that she was abandoning her career as an actress.

    In 2002 Jean-Louis Courcoult, the director of the renowned French theatre company, Royale de Luxe, travelled to Bamako to offer Diawara a part in his new production. An unmarried woman is considered a minor in Malian society so her family’s permission was required. They refused. After much soul-searching Diawara took the daring decision to run away and at the Bamako airport she managed to board a plane for Paris, narrowly escaping the pursuit of the police who had been alerted to the girl’s “kidnapping.”

    With Royal de Luxe, Diawara performed a variety of roles around the world including tours in Vietnam and Mexico and throughout Europe. During rehearsals and quiet moments she took to singing backstage for her own amusement. She was overheard by the director and was soon singing solo during the company’s performances. Encouraged by the reception from audiences she began to sing in Parisian clubs and cafes during breaks from touring. Here she met Cheikh Tidiane Seck the celebrated Malian musician and producer who invited her to travel with him back to Mali to work on two projects as chorus vocalist; Seya, the Grammy–nominated album by Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, and Red Earth, the Grammy–winning Malian project by American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. When the albums were released Diawara toured worldwide as singer and dancer with both artists.

    On her return to France, Diawara took the role of Karaba in the popular touring musical Kirikou and Karaba. She was encouraged to take the role by her friend Rokia Traoré, who also inspired her to take up the guitar. Diawara bought a guitar and started to teach herself and to write down her own compositions.

    She made the decision to dedicate herself to her passion: music. She worked to complete an album’s worth of songs and started recording demos for which she composed and arranged all of the tracks, as well as playing guitar, percussion, bass, and singing lead and harmony vocals. An introduction from Oumou Sangaré resulted in a record deal with World Circuit and the recording of her debut album.

    Between recording sessions she found time to collaborate on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express and contribute vocals to albums by Cheikh Lô, AfroCubism, Herbie Hancock’s Grammy–winning Imagine Project and Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

    Diawara’s EP Kanou was released by World Circuit in Europe in the spring of 2011, followed by her debut album Fatou in the fall, when Nonesuch Records released the Kanou EP in the US. Fatou will be released by Nonesuch Records in the US on August 28, 2012.

    Following the release, Diawara performed as part of Damon Albarn’s album and live project Rocket Juice and the Moon, which featured himself, Tony Allen, and Flea. She also is featured on Roberto Fonseca’s most recent release YO and on Bobby Womack’s album The Bravest Man in the Universe, which was co-produced by Albarn and Richard Russell. Diawara has also toured extensively, selling out venues around the world.

on August 23, 2011 - 10:05am

Fatoumata Diawara (a.k.a. Fatou) was born of Malian parents in the Ivory Coast in 1982. As a child she became a member of her father’s dance troupe and was a popular performer of the wildly flailing didadi dance from Wassoulou, her ancestral home in western Mali. She was an energetic and headstrong girl and at the age of 12 her refusal to go to school prompted her parents to send her to live and be disciplined by an aunt in Bamako. She was not to see her parents again for more than a decade.

Her aunt was an actress, and a few years after arriving, Diawara found herself on a film set looking after her aunt’s infant child. The film’s director was captivated by Diawara’s adolescent beauty and she was given a one-line part in the final scene of the film Taafe Fangan (The Power of Women). This led to a lead role in a film by the celebrated director Cheick Omar Sissoko: 1999’s La Genèse (Genesis).

At the age of 18 Diawara travelled to Paris to perform the classical Greek role of Antigone on stage. After touring with the production she returned to Mali where she was given the lead in Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, The Dream of the Python. The film tells the story of a West African legend called Sia, a young girl who defies tradition. To many in Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Burkina Faso, Diawara is Sia thanks to the film’s enormous success throughout the region.

Offers for further acting roles poured in but Diawara’s family wanted her to settle down and marry and forced her to announce, live on Malian television, that she was abandoning her career as an actress.

In 2002 Jean-Louis Courcoult, the director of the renowned French theatre company, Royale de Luxe, travelled to Bamako to offer Diawara a part in his new production. An unmarried woman is considered a minor in Malian society so her family’s permission was required. They refused. After much soul-searching Diawara took the daring decision to run away and at the Bamako airport she managed to board a plane for Paris, narrowly escaping the pursuit of the police who had been alerted to the girl’s “kidnapping.”

With Royal de Luxe, Diawara performed a variety of roles around the world including tours in Vietnam and Mexico and throughout Europe. During rehearsals and quiet moments she took to singing backstage for her own amusement. She was overheard by the director and was soon singing solo during the company’s performances. Encouraged by the reception from audiences she began to sing in Parisian clubs and cafes during breaks from touring. Here she met Cheikh Tidiane Seck the celebrated Malian musician and producer who invited her to travel with him back to Mali to work on two projects as chorus vocalist; Seya, the Grammy–nominated album by Malian singer Oumou Sangaré, and Red Earth, the Grammy–winning Malian project by American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. When the albums were released Diawara toured worldwide as singer and dancer with both artists.

On her return to France, Diawara took the role of Karaba in the popular touring musical Kirikou and Karaba. She was encouraged to take the role by her friend Rokia Traoré, who also inspired her to take up the guitar. Diawara bought a guitar and started to teach herself and to write down her own compositions.

She made the decision to dedicate herself to her passion: music. She worked to complete an album’s worth of songs and started recording demos for which she composed and arranged all of the tracks, as well as playing guitar, percussion, bass, and singing lead and harmony vocals. An introduction from Oumou Sangaré resulted in a record deal with World Circuit and the recording of her debut album.

Between recording sessions she found time to collaborate on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express and contribute vocals to albums by Cheikh Lô, AfroCubism, Herbie Hancock’s Grammy–winning Imagine Project and Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Diawara’s EP Kanou was released by World Circuit in Europe in the spring of 2011, followed by her debut album Fatou in the fall, when Nonesuch Records released the Kanou EP in the US. Fatou will be released by Nonesuch Records in the US on August 28, 2012.

Following the release, Diawara performed as part of Damon Albarn’s album and live project Rocket Juice and the Moon, which featured himself, Tony Allen, and Flea. She also is featured on Roberto Fonseca’s most recent release YO and on Bobby Womack’s album The Bravest Man in the Universe, which was co-produced by Albarn and Richard Russell. Diawara has also toured extensively, selling out venues around the world.

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Diawara
Biography (Excerpt): 

Inspired by Wassoulou tradition, jazz, and blues, Fatoumata Diawara has created her own unique contemporary folk sound, giving a distinctly African spin to the concept of the female singer-songwriter. "Like her mentor [Oumou] Sangaré," says the Financial Times, "Diawara combines feminist social conscience with effortless melodic charm." The Daily Telegraph calls her "the most beguiling talent to hit the world music scene in some time." Kanou, her debut EP, is available digitally and includes four tracks plus the video for the song "Bissa."

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