Friday, October 28, 2011

‘Fatou’ by Fatoumata Diawara

28 October 2011

I first saw the young Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara providing backing vocals for the legendary Oumou Sangaré at the 2009 WOMAD Festival (reviewed here in July 2009). I saw her again at this year’s WOMAD Festival where she appeared on the BBC Radio 3 Stage with her own band to perform songs from her forthcoming debut album. That album, ‘Fatou’, was released in September and I’ve been listening to it this week. Fatoumata Diawara comes from Southern Mali and sings in the Wassalou style, familiar to me from Oumou Sangaré (reviewed here in March 2009) and that other great contemporary Malian singer Rokia Traoré (reviewed here in December 2008). Like Rokia Traoré, Fatoumata Diawara now lives in France and her music shows some European influences. Her voice is gentler than Oumou Sangaré and more laid-back than the breathy intensity of Rokia Traoré. And the songs on ‘Fatou’ are lovely – gentle, catchy, joyful, distinctively West African but easily accessible to European ears. Perhaps not as musically ambitious as Rokia Traoré or quite so concerned with political messages as Oumou Sangaré (though she does deal with some important social issues) Fatoumata Diawara has created an album which is sophisticated easy-listening.

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