Dusting Off... Fatoumata Diawara's Fatou
What is it?
Released in 2011, Fatou is the debut album of Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara. Born to Malian parent in Ivory Coast, Diawara began as an actress, working with the renowned street theatre group Royal de Luxe and starring in a number of French language feature films before embarking on a career in music.
While appearing as a backing vocalist on records by American jazz artist DeeDee Bridgewater and fellow Malian Wassoulou singer Oumou Sangaré, Diawara began writing her own songs, eventually coming to the attention of World Circuit Records, home to the likes of Ali Farka Toure and Buena Vista Social Club. The label released her first EP, Kanou, in early 2011, following up with her debut album later the same year.
Fatou is a fairly mellow, stripped back affair for the most part, largely revolving around acoustic guitar and vocals, but stylistically the record blends traditional Wassoulou music with more modern, western influences. Even though none of the songs' lyrics are written in English – most of them are either sung in French or in her native Malian Bambara – you soon find that it doesn't affect your enjoyment of the album, propelled along throughout by Diawara's smooth, smoky voice. Particular highlights on the album include the shuffling groove of 'Bissa', the blues-tinged 'Boloko' and the gentle, guitar-driven folk of opener 'Kanou'.
Why should I revisit?
Fatoumata Diawara has earned herself some high-profile fans in recent years, having performed with Paul McCartney and featured heavily on the debut album by Damon Albarn's 'supergroup' Rocket Juice & The Moon, as well as establishing herself as a popular act in France, where she now lives.
Fatou is just a great 'Sunday morning' record and it's an impressive blend of different types of world music that never feels like it's clashing together. It's so easy to get lost in the record' grooves and you really will forget that you're listening to an album written in another language.
Who will enjoy it?
If you're open to world music in general and enjoy listening to the likes of Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate, or even if you've heard Damon Albarn's Mali Music project and fancy digging a little deeper, you'll find plenty to enjoy on Fatou. In the midst of music scene that is awash with singer-songwriters, Fatoumata Diawara is something unique and a little bit special.