”Written byNick Trethowan
“One day I went on a journey…”
Vivid, engaging and gripping, Fatoumata Diawara is a musical force to be reckoned with. Hailed as one of the most important figures in modern African music, her sound is difficult to classify – a fusion of Afropop, Afrofolk, and Afrofuturism, blending traditional West African rhythms and vocals with contemporary sounds. Diawara’s music is a celebration of her Malian heritage, a testament to her creativity and innovation, and a representation of her experiences and identity. Upon discovery, it is very easy to get swept in a beautiful body of work and vibrant expression.
With the release of her latest track titled ‘Nsera’ with Damon Albarn, we thought we’d explore a little about this amazing artist and some of the things we have fallen in love with.
When it comes to modern African music, Fatoumata Diawara is a standard-bearer. Her music is a unique blend of Afropop, Afrofolk, and Afrofuturism, combining traditional wassoulou rhythms and West African vocal techniques with contemporary sounds. Armed with her guitar, she has worked with some of the biggest names in contemporary music, including Bobby Womack, Herbie Hancock, Sir Paul McCartney, David Crosby, and Amadou and Mariam, among many others.
Her Grammy-nominated second album, ‘Fenfo,’ released in 2018, earned universal critical acclaim. Diawara has also had a successful career as an actress, earning accolades for her appearance in the 2014 film ‘Timbuktu,’ which was nominated for both a BAFTA and Academy Award.
“Whom did I meet, Brothers and sisters, I met my friends. Whom did I meet, My brethren, I met my siblings“
Fatoumata Diawara’s latest collaboration is with Damon Albarn on ‘Nsera,’ a song that fuses the sounds of London and the Malian capital Bamako. Albarn, who has a long history of working with African musicians, co-wrote and co-produced the track, infusing a touch of melancholy and modernity into its Mandinka sound. The partnership resulted in the term ‘Londonko,’ which Fatoumata coined to describe the imaginary land that brings two continents together.
The video for ‘Nsera,’ directed by Gregory Ohrel, takes viewers on a journey through the heart of Africa, showcasing its cultural richness and diversity. The title of the song, which means ‘destination’ in Bambara, reflects Fatoumata’s exploration of her roots, culture, and identity. Born in the Ivory Coast to Malian parents, she continues to eagerly explore her land and her own destination.
Last year Fatoumata also collaborated with the Google Arts & Culture platform on ‘Maliba,’ a collection of seven new songs that formed the soundtrack to a special online presentation of the Timbuktu Manuscripts, celebrating centuries of Malian culture.
Fatoumata Diawara’s music defies classification, blending tradition and modernity to create a sound that is uniquely her own. With ‘Nsera,’ she continues to push the boundaries of contemporary African music and explore her roots in new and exciting ways.