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A Powerful Voice From Mali

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Thursday October 04, 2018

From Berkleyside

A powerful voice from Mali, Fatoumata Diawara
By: Andrew Gilbert

When Fatoumata Diawara sings about surviving dire circumstances, she’s not playing a role.

Born to Malian parents in the Ivory Coast, raised southern Mali and long based in Paris, she’s a captivating singer/songwriter, guitarist, actor and activist who bridges worlds. As one of five surviving children from 11 siblings, she carved out a singular creative path in the face ardent opposition from her family, emerging as one of West Africa’s most eloquent female artists.

Diawara performs Sunday at Freight & Salvage, celebrating the release of her second album Fenfo (Shanachie), a striking project that unfolds with the emotional arc of a cathartic conversation. Though not designed as a song cycle, Diawara moves from dismayed child to reassuring parent, singing mostly in Wassoulou (the CD provides English translation of her lyrics).

“My first album was more concentrated on my own experience as a child, everything that I didn’t understand” says Diawara, speaking about her critically hailed 2011 debut Fatou (World Circuit). “It was questions: Why do you do that? Why are we not free? Why you want me to be like you? This is my first album as a mom and I want to be a voice for children. Why didn’t you tell me the world is so crazy, that people can be mean sometimes? Why people are fighting? We have enough to live in this world. We should enjoy our differences.”

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