WOMAD musical festival is fast approaching and joining us in March this year at Adelaide’s Botanic Garden for a spectacular performance is Malian singer and electric guitarist Fatoumata Diawara whose charming lyrics mostly in her native tongue – Bambara – is set to transport her audience to a mystical world of dance and musical healing.
She uses her music to highlight the everyday struggle of the African woman. Her song ‘Nterini’ which is about love for an emigrant who may never return was included in former President Obama’s Best of 2018 song list as well as the New York Times.
Salt Magazine had a chat with the Paris based Malian singer, actress and activist about her musical journey which has scored her two Grammy nominations for ‘Best World Music Album’ – FENFO and ‘Best Dance Recording’ for featuring on Disclosure’s song Ultimatum.
Born in the Ivory Coast from Malian Parents Fatoumata started performing arts and singing at an early age. “In Africa we grow up with music, melodies and Mali is very special for this” she said.
Relentless in her campaigns against human trafficking and raising awareness on some of the challenges women encounter living in Africa, Fatoumata said she is trying to straddle two worlds with her music. “For me to reach more people I need to have a foot in both traditional and modern music, I want to be the voice of Africa not just for the people of Mali. As Africans we need women who sing and talk about the way we feel, the things we are going through and what we think about our society”.
Talking about her recent Grammy nominated album ‘Fenfo’ Fatoumata said she is very happy with the response to her songs. “It is really a victory for all African people, I’m very excited. I took my time to record this album”.
She said she is not singing just to get money or fame but to share her reality. “Many people listening to my music will feel my truth and naturally they will feel their truth at the same time, it’s about healing people through melody.”
According to Fatoumata sharing a stage with legendary artists like Paul McCartney just helps to demonstrate the power of love in music. “You can be white, black or yellow, but love is one, because we all have red blood, so when we play side by side with such big artists, we look at each other and we smile, when I play a melody even though he doesn’t know what it means he looks at me and he is just happy and I’m happy too”.
Unlike the younger generation of African artists using flashy cars and flamboyant fashion in their music videos, Fatoumata said she wants to show the other side of Africa, which is simple but beautiful.
“You can come from a little village in Africa but your village can be magical, it can be one of the best places in the world, it’s all about accepting ourselves, it’s nice to be different, it’s beautiful to be different”.
Fatoumata said she looks forward to her second trip to down under. “We are going to enjoy the time no matter where you came from its going to be all about music, all about melodies and enjoying life and enjoying the moment. I’m really excited”.
It was great talking to Fatoumata and we look forward to her WOMAD performance in March 2019.