MDR Selects – Fatoumata Diawara

MDR Selects returns: a series that invites our favourite artists, labels, record stores and more to curate a playlist of songs that hold specific meaning to them. Following an absolutely mesmerising show at Leaf, we’re ecstatic to have some selections from Fatoumata Diawara.

Hailing from the Ivory Coast and Mali, Fatoumata Diawara is one of the most vital standard-bearers of modern African music. Her two albums, ‘Fatou’ and the 2018 release ‘Fenfo’ on Wagram/Montuno, are both bold and experimental while remaining authentic to her roots. She combines traditional vocals and African rhythms with twinges of R&B and folk, creating a truly unique fusion of sound.

Fatoumata has many ribbons to her bow, beginning her career as an actress while teaching herself guitar and composing original material. She starred in a number of films while living in France, a country she  fled to at aged 18 to avoid a forced marriage by her parents. It is the pain of struggles such as this that Diawara so eloquently expresses through her music. She raises crucial awareness of emigration, the challenges African women face, living under the power of religious fundamentalists and mutual respect, making her a key figure of empowerment and inspiration for African women.

She’s been mentored by fellow Malian icon Oumou Sangaré, as well as collaborating with big names including Damon Albarn, Bobby Womack and Paul McCartney. Other major achievements include playing Glastonbury, touring all over the world and most recently, completing a rare UK tour. We were lucky enough to catch her in the cosy upstairs of Leaf, and what we witnessed was pure composure and surety, poise and grace. She was a true beacon of light onstage; when she smiled at her band, she gave them energy. She completely shared the spotlight with them and her audience, pulling people onstage to dance, who you could see felt awkward until she smiled at them. A true picture of “music as love” (Nina Franklin).

Fatoumata has kindly put together a playlist of songs from some of her favourite artists below. We’re privileged to be able to tune in to a part of her world.

 “This is a selection of my favourite records. I grow up with each song, not only musically but also personally. Each one is part of me.”