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17 julio 2024

Fatoumata Diawara: “my music is a combination of my roots interpreted from my modern perspective”

The artist born in Ivory Coast and raised in Mali is considered the voice of young African women - proud of her heritage, but with a vision that looks resolutely to the future with a universal message. Precisely, she is a pioneer in focusing her music on talking about women's conditions and raising awareness about her homeland, Mali.

Zaragoza is one of the few Spanish cities that will be lucky enough to hear you, thank you very much for having us. We are delighted to have you at the Música al Raso festival.
How has this tour been? 42 cities in 7 months, is it exhausting, culturally enriching?

I am very happy on stage, it is a magical place for me, where I can be 100% myself, where I heal my wounds and where I can give the best of myself, so touring is almost necessary. Of course it’s tiring but it’s very enriching.

Before we talk about her music, let’s get to know her a little better. You moved to France when you were 18. How did you start in France? You had already started working in film, hadn’t you?

Yes, I made my first steps in cinema in Bamako, my first film was “the Dream of the Pytohon” where I played a leading role (SIA), then I went to live with my aunt in France (aged 19), I was very lucky to be able to join a theatre company “Royal de Luxe”, that’s when I decided that I also wanted to sing.

You worked in several films, but at one point you left film to pursue a career in music. What made you leave acting? What does music bring to you that film doesn’t?

I have never left cinema aside, in fact, it is an activity that I have been able to combine with my career as a musician/singer. I love both disciplines, it is true that with music I can express through my compositions everything I want to tell the world and this makes me feel alive and connected to people, but acting is something that fascinates me.

In my latest album FENFO I deal with different themes such as peace, injustice, understanding between people and I try to be the voice of those who cannot speak. I feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy both.

Let’s talk about music, how would you define your music? Who influenced you in the beginning?

All my learning of music comes from traditional music, this has been my school and it comes naturally to me when I start to compose. I would say that my music is a combination of my roots interpreted from my modern perspective.

Fenfo took you almost 7 years, it’s a mix of many different styles, with a base of Malian music that you mix with styles like jazz, blues, funk or afro-pop, is that why it took you so long?

I really needed a space between FATOU and FENFO to grow not only musically but also as a person, in the meantime I became a mum, something that really marked me a lot and made me learn….. Everything has its time.

How was the creative process? Was it very complicated to combine traditional Malian music with these styles?

The truth is that it was quite a natural process, there is certainly a combination of styles and it is something that I had a lot of fun experimenting with.

So you haven’t stopped still, multiple collaborations with musicians such as: Bobby Womack and Herbie Hancock, Roberto Fonseca. You’ve even shared the stage with Sir Paul McCartney. Or at Carnegie Hall with David Crosby, Chris Thile, Snarky Puppy among others in an evening dedicated to protest music. How does it feel to work with them?

Wonderful, it’s a real school of sensations, emotions, colours and energy activation. I am very grateful to everyone for the opportunity.

We have been able to hear how you interpret Nina Simone, a reference without a doubt, what attracted you to her music?

She is a reference for me, the powerful way she sings, so deep and the way she plays the piano. The peace and pain that she carries within her is present in her music, it’s so bluesy.

Nina Simone was a person who fought for human rights, you are a person who also fights to change the situation of women and to raise awareness about the situation in Mali, tell us more about this side of you?

As I said before, I try as much as I can to give a voice to those who don’t have one, especially women and children in Africa, but the same goes for everyone. I try to give visibility to what many turn their backs on or ignore (prefer not to look at) in order to raise awareness for change.

 A few quick and simple questions:

What is your favourite place in the world?


One wish?

Peace in the world

What music do you listen to?

All kind!

What inspires you?

A good gesture, justice, love

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