Thursday 4 July 2019
Ancient meets modern: Malian singer and guitarist charms with her contemporary roots music that soulfully marries Malian pop and blues.

Mali has been well-represented at Roskilde Festival throughout the years. In 2019, we can look forward to one of the finest, most inventive female singers from the West African country (she lives in Paris now).

Fatoumata Diawara first established her reputation in 2011 on the basis of her debut album Fatou. Since then, she has been involved in a number of projects, including collaborations with Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, fellow Malians Amadou & Mariam and Oumou Sangaré and UK house duo Disclosure (check out the track “Ultimatum”).

2018 saw the release of her critically acclaimed second solo album (see some stellar reviews here). Fenfe (means ‘something to say’) demonstrates her impressive musical range, and her soulful and expressive voice is surrounded by a distinguished band. On Diawara’s first album, the musicians included renowned Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté – and on her latest release the cast includes his son Sidiki Diabaté (also playing the kora, of course) as well as French star guitarist Matthieu Chedid and French cellist Vincent Ségal.

36-year-old Fatoumata Diawara mostly sings in Bambara (the language and name of the largest ethnic group in Mali), and she tackles everything from migration to African identity and demands to end the ban on marriages between different ethnic groups. Many of her songs are also about female empowerment, calling for more female leaders on the African continent. In the wake of the discovery of slave markets in Libya, she has also recorded a powerful anti-racism song, “Djonya” (listen here).

Tall and sculptural, Fatoumata Diawara is a majestic presence on a live stage. Equipped with the guitar and her voice and joined by a well-playing band, her songs are given beautiful shine live.

Fatoumata Diawara last played Roskilde Festival as part of the Damon Albarn-led Africa Express project in 2015 (a bit of footage here). In 2019, she’s here under her own name. Get ready to be charmed.