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Fatoumata Diawara Sings For The Voiceless

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Friday November 10, 2017

From The National (UAE)

Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara sings for the voiceless

Malian blues chanteuse Fatoumata Diawara’s peppy songs conceal a wisdom forged by a painful journey of self-discovery. Each performance, she explains, provides a sense of healing. The smiles and applause from the crowd serve as a reminder that the creative fire within is a force for good – even if it came at the cost of her relationship with her family.

“I almost feel like a baby on stage. I am just so happy, and I just want to give back and make everyone feel the same joy that I have,” she says. “The stage is a safe place for me. I feel peace there and this is why I always need to be on tour. I get sad when I am away for too long because I feel like I am not contributing.”

Diawara’s seemingly never- ending run of shows will have her headlining one of the nights of the four-day cultural festival marking the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The 34-year-old will make her regional debut on Sunday in the museum’s sparkling plaza with her brand of driving songs composed in the Malian roots tradition called wassoulou. Performed mostly by women, the genre is credited by music ethnologists as forming the DNA of the blues.

While Diawara’s acclaimed 2011 debut album, Fatou, has her jettisoning the genre’s signature traditional instruments including the soku (a traditional fiddle), djembe drum, and Kamalen n’goni (a six-stringed harp), for a modern set-up of electric and bass guitars and drums, she still manages to conjure that signature rumbling groove evoking a desert landscape both hospitable and unforgiving.

The album’s lyrics, however, are trademark wassoulou in which she expresses the various factors of the Malian female experience. Sung in her native bambara language, the songs speak of the challenges of childbearing, the joys and pains of motherhood and the horror of female circumcision in a manner that is both straightforward and plaintive.

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