Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara (aka Fatou) was born of Malian parents in the Ivory Coast in 1982. As a child she became a member of her father’s dance troupe and was a popular performer of the wildly flailing didadi dance from Wassoulou, her ancestral home in western Mali. She was an energetic and headstrong girl and at the age of twelve her refusal to go to school finally prompted her parents to send her to live and be disciplined by an aunt in Bamako. Her aunt was an actress, and a few years after arriving, Fatou found herself on a film set looking after her aunt’s infant child. The film’s director was captivated by Fatou’s adolescent beauty and she was given a one line part in the final scene of the film ‘Taafe Fangan’ (‘The Power of Women’).
At the age of eighteen Fatou travelled to Paris to perform the classical Greek role of Antigone on stage. After touring with the production she returned to Mali where she was given the lead in Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film ‘Sia, The Dream of the Python’. In 2002 Jean-Louis Courcoult, the director of the renowned French theatre company, Royale de Luxe, travelled to Bamako to offer Fatou a part in his new production. With Royal de Luxe Fatou performed a variety of roles around the world including tours in Vietnam, Mexico and throughout Europe.
During rehearsals and quiet moments she took to singing backstage for her own amusement. She was overheard by the director and was soon singing solo during the company’s performances. Encouraged by the reception from audiences she began to sing in Parisian clubs and cafes during breaks from touring. Here she met Cheikh Tidiane Seck the celebrated Malian musician and producer who invited her to travel with him back to Mali to work on two projects as chorus vocalist; ‘Seya’ the GRAMMY nominated album by Mali’s star Oumou Sangaré and ‘Red Earth’ the GRAMMY winning Malian project by American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. When the albums were released Fatou toured worldwide as singer and dancer with both projects.
Her friend Rokia Traore inspired her to take up the guitar: “To me it was a wonderful and daring thing: a Malian girl with an acoustic guitar. Why should the guitar be only for men?” Fatou bought herself a guitar and started to teach herself, and at the same time began to write down her own compositions. She worked to complete an album’s worth of songs and started recording demos for which she composed and arranged all the titles, as well as playing guitar, percussion, bass and singing lead and harmony vocals. Fatou’s EP ‘Kanou’ was released on 9 May, followed by her debut full length album ‘Fatou’ on 19 September 2011 on World Circuit to much critical acclaim.
Between recording sessions she found time to collaborate on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express and contribute vocals to albums by Cheikh Lô, AfroCubism, Herbie Hancock’s GRAMMY winning Imagine Project and Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.
Following the release Fatoumata performed as part of Damon Albarn’s album and live project ‘Rocket Juice and the Moon’ (Honest Jon’s) which featured himself, Tony Allen and Flea. Fatou also featured Roberto Fonseca’s most recent release ‘YO’ and on Bobby Womack’s album ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ (XL) which was co-produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell.
“The most beguiling talent to hit the world music scene in some time… this stylish debut doesn’t put a foot wrong” – The Telegraph (5/5)