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Friday November 11, 2016

From Daily Nation

Mali and Cuban singers combine to create unique sound with a message

If it is true that jazz gets its rhythm from Africa, then a project that combines a Cuban ensemble with an African vocalist must surely be a musical match made in heaven. Last weekend’s Safaricom Jazz Lounge featured a stand out performance by pianist Roberto Fonseca leading his Quartet alongside the ‘sister from Mali,’ Fatoumata Diawara.

The collaboration was born when Fonseca began looking for African elements for his last album Jo.

‘I was in Paris and his record company contacted me so we recorded the song ‘Bibisa’, which became very popular,’ the Malian singer recalled in an exclusive interview the day before the concert at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi. ‘It occurred to us that there was something special here so we released a live album two years later.’ The album was titled At Home to reflect the emotional attachment that the Cubans feel for their roots in Africans.

The musicians have been touring for two years now and Fatou, as she is popularly known, describes the musical connections as purely African: ‘When we started to create songs together, I heard the Cubans play percussions and it sounded exactly like musicians playing the same instruments in my village in Mali.’

Last Saturday night, Fatou, guitar in hand, resplendent in flowing orange fabric with dark designs and her trademark head wrap, began with a jazzed up version of Sowa, a song dedicated to children who grow up not knowing their parents, from her 2011 album Fatou.

The song is inspired by her own experience. Born to Malian parents in the Cote d’Ivoire, Fatou was raised by her aunt in Bamako from the age of nine and didn’t see her parents again until she was 26.