Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara – Bakonoba : Mali Song of the Week

You may have noticed a slightly different look to this week’s Song of the Week. Only slight mind, and you may have noticed it’s a little shorter than usual too. This is because most of the time usually dedicated to producing a jolly bit of prose about music of Mali has been committed to clicking about under the Mali Interest Hub bonnet. The Hub is due a long overdue renovation to make room for all the capability we dreamed it would have.

So while that is all going on it is important not to lose sight of the real reason we are all here – to celebrate a country we love.  On Saturday evening Diawara supported Songhoy Blues at the Roundhouse and joined them for an unforgettable finale rendition of ‘Soubour’. Fatoumata Diawara gets pretty wild on stage. An already strong vocalist explodes into a hair-swinging lioness, thundering back and forth across the stage just to fill a 20 second instrumental. She provided the perfect send-off for this special evening with her infectious energy, her charisma combining well with the general coolness (but sometimes crazy) of Aliou Toure – lead singer of Songhoy Blues.

Diawara issued a clarion call for African women during her set, speaking emotively about the legacies of previous greats like Miriam Makeba and present day heroes like Angelique Kidjo. A symbol of strength and beauty herself, she encouraged everyone in attendance to empower the women of Africa for the sake of the continent and for peace and prosperity worldwide. Later, Aliou Toure would make a similarly impassioned speech, bringing the noise of a 2,000-strong crowd to silence, as he spoke about the need for solidarity with musicians and artists. Citing the massacre at the Bataclan, he reminded the audience that musicians, ever on the pulse of social and political expressions, were increasingly targeted by terrorists – not only in Africa, but now across the globe.

Then came a chance to really do something about it. Roaring “encore!” at Songhoy Blues had felt like enough previously; cheering support for this band that respresents the very essence of artistic defiance in this insecure world. The Music In Exile fund, coordinated by the Index on Censorship and supported wholly by Songhoy Blues, was the nominated charity for the evening. The money raised will fund scholarships for exiled musicians fleeing persecution. The hip-hop artist and political activist Serge Bambara (aka Smockey) is the first, and an undoubtably worthy, beneficiary of the scheme. He will be performing in London in July in an atmosphere that is bound to be as electric as Saturday’s.

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

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