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Thursday June 14, 2018

From OkayAfrica

Fatoumata Diawara: “People Need an Example in Africa, Because Politicians Can’t Be Our Example”
By: Angel E. Fraden

When I met with Fatoumata a few days before her headlining performance at Brooklyn Bowl for the World Music Institute’s Festival of Mali, she was still glowing after a grueling day of press. It took just a few minutes for Fatou to warm up and lean in as she tells me about her life– habitually swooping beaded braids over the top of her head in a playful manner that lets me know she’s comfortable.

As we spoke an exuberant glimmer of hope remained in Fatou’s eyes, even as she described the unfortunate circumstances that cripple and hinder her native Mali and the rest of Africa. The juxtaposition elicits echoes of Fatou’s “Kanou Dan Yen” (or “Stop loving/Our love has no future”), an exceptionally beautiful song from the new record about two estranged lovers. The upbeat song reprimands the forces of tradition working against the advancement of society with simple, straightforward lyrics. A similar message resounds throughout Fenfo and our brief conversation. By the time I’m ready to leave she’s embracing me, calling me her brother, relaying the feeling of love her music does so well to capture.

Your recorded material continues the lineage of folk and blues rock that’s historically famous in Mali, but you also seem to be adapting to new trends in pop like electronic music

I’m scared for Africa. Especially for Mali, where everything is through instruments. Every region has its own instrument and every instrument speaks a language. You put Toumani [Diabaté], Ali Farka [Touré], Oumou Sangaré, Amadou and Mariam, Tinariwen and me on the same festival, you will hear different songs and different regions. It’s because of our instrument, the way we play the instrument, it speaks a language and brings a different part of the blues. It’s like the same mom but different children.

When I see how things are going with a computer where you can make a song in one day… Sometimes I think we should sit down and talk about it. It’s good for some to do that, and it’s also good for some people to play instruments. I’ve been putting a little bit of electronic stuff in my new record. But not that much. Onstage, it’s more about rock or blues solos. I’m playing guitar onstage and this is to stay we should keep playing an instrument.

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