Afropop Worldwide: 'Fenfo'

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Friday May 25, 2018

From Afropop Worldwide


Any young female singer in Mali has to know that she is stepping into the territory of goddesses. From Fanta Damba to Oumou Sangaré, Mali has produced as many exceptional women of song as just about any place on earth. But if any of that has ever felt intimidating to Fatoumata Diawara, there’s no hint of it on her sophomore release, Fenfo, a bold set of 11 tracks that merge Wassoulou and other traditional Malian genres with savvy rock elements to arrive at a distinctly personal sound.

[…] On this album, and especially in her electrifying live performances, Diawara has blossomed into a singer with spectacular emotional and technical range. She can coo and whisper all on her own’“as on the lullaby-like ‘Mama’‘“or uncork a hurricane of vocal passion over her band’s muscular grooves, as on this album’s Wassoulou-flavored title track. There’s a raspy edge on her vocal on ‘Bonfa,’ a techy rock song featuring kora by young superstar Sidiki Diabaté (son of Toumani). ‘Negue Negue,’ the album’s funkiest track, is also its most celebratory, though Diawara lays into the vocal with cool rebelliousness that belies the upbeat lyrics.

Well worth the wait, Fenfo marks an impressive milestone as Diawara shapes her place in the august pantheon of Malian divas.

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