Tag Archives: 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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

Is the situation in Mali getting better? Or is it getting worse? How do we even attempt to answer this question? The common reference point for many is the 2012/13 conflict. What great achievements has Mali secured since then? In what way does the country continue to slide further out of control?

To concentrate temporarily on the good stuff, there has been one headline grabbing ‘break-through’ moment in recent weeks. Even more important than the Bamako-Segou Highway having almost been completed is that Mali has been declared “Ebola Free” after going 42 days without a new reported case. The virus claimed 6 lives and infected 8 since October. The resilience of Mali’s health system has been tested, and comparatively speaking, it has scraped through successfully…for now. Mali, for the most part remains a post-conflict, developing country and the region’s healthcare systems have been decimated by Ebola. Like every internal issue affecting Mali today, it must be considered within its international context.

Balancing and structuring a narrative about the national and international ‘setting’ of Mali’s struggles is done excellently in this piece by Andrew Lebovich. In a succinct and accessible manner, Lebovich reminds us of the complexity of the issues at hand, and indeed contributes plenty more questions to those that started this article – how can we measure success in Mali? Worthy of significant consideration are the issues of the Tuareg, the remnants of the MNLA, illegal drug trade, gangs, French intervention, regional diplomacy and trade to name a few.

One good bit of regional news is the return of the Festival sur le Niger for its 11th edition, at which Fatoumata Diawara is expected to play alongside an all-star cast of fellow Malians. In international news, a Malian-born man has been awarded French citizenship following his “heroic” actions at the kosher restaurant where he worked when it was attacked by a gunman, killing 4. The story of Lassana Bathily is a small beam of goodness is the misery that has racked Parisian society over the last month.

After a such a mixed update of all things Mali, a populist choice for Song of the Week has been made. The song has over 900,000 views on YouTube since its 2011 upload and following its release on Diawara’s first album ‘Fatou‘.


Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Fatoumata Diawara – Clandestin

Fatoumata Diawara’s magic comes from her ability to create warm, tranquil music whilst still addressing very tough issues. In the case of ‘Clandestin’ the issue being addressed the that of Africa to Europe immigration, told from the perspective of an onlooker – of someone who stays behind, or has already set up a new life in Europe; both perspectives being ones that Diawara has had herself.

This is a huge topic in European politics, and has certainly brought about some appalling circumstances, which have been widely reported but this has not transposed into meaningful action. Boats ranging from the sturdy to the barely-afloat attempt to bridge the gap between the North African coastline and southern Europe, aiming in particular for Italy. The boats, horrifically overcrowded, frequently capsize, or run out of fuel, food and water. Thousands continue to die. Some rescue attempts are made by the coastguards and navies of Mediterranean European countries, however according to Human Rights Watch the focus is always on barring entry rather than saving lives. Such is the toxicity of immigration as a political issue in Europe today countries struggling economically have simply declared that they “cannot confront the crisis” as it arrives at its shores – instead calling on the United Nations to set up processing centres in Africa to manage the flow of people. Crises in West Africa, including Mali, Syria and as far a field as Somalia are all contributing to the growing numbers of African migrants willing to attempt the journey.

Diawara’s perspective is a vital contribution to this topic. Some coverage in Europe is given to explain why someone is forced to making the decision, but few have described the personal traumas as well as Diawara. “They are called ‘illegals,’ but I call them warriors as it’s not easy to leave everything behind and to trust in the unknown. In Bambara, we call them nomads,” says Diawara. “This song is dedicated to all the brothers who die on this trip and to those who have already left.”

The imagery of a warrior, or even nomad, encourages us to view each migrant as an individual – someone who has come to an independent decision, one heavily influenced by the enormous wreckage of poverty and war. From a European perspective to “leave everything” for an African appears slightly simplistically. Perhaps an overly focusing on conflict and poverty makes the issue a material one – literally what items someone leaves behind. However, Diawara speaks to them as “brothers” – they are individuals who have left a family, their country and everything they know, behind – a potentially fatal gamble for a future they know little about.  Again, “they put all their trust in the unknown”. A bitterly sorrowful situation to imagine. It provides a much firmer base for empathy towards the victims and understanding for those who have managed to continue their lives in Europe.

Fatoumata Diawara – Clandestin

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Mulele Matondo Afrika & Friends – Mali La Paix

As international efforts get underway in Mali to support the reconstruction of Mali’s damaged World Heritage Sites, here at the Hub we are doing our own style of international convergence. For the first time in its history our Mali Song of the Week will be a song from outside Mali.

Now there is no need to panic, as the song is beautifully crafted and definitely has everything we know and love about Mali at the heart of it. It dates back to the dark days of early 2013  when the future of Mali was in jeopardy. The song was created by UK-based Congolese artist Mulele Matondo Afrika after he brought together an international group of London-based artists to record ‘Mali La Paix’ which means  ‘Peace in Mali’. It was written to promote peace and show solidarity with Mali.  The song is a grand collaboration of over 20 musicians and vocalists inspired by Fatoumata Diawara‘s own contribution of ‘Voices United for Mali‘. Diversity, openness and tolerance are obvious themes in ‘Mali La Paix’ with each artist contributing their own individual styles  in nearly ten different languages.
Speaking in January 2013, Mulele Matondo Afrika explains why he was motivated to respond to the crisis:

“The conflict in Mali is an issue for Africa, and for the rest of the world. I wanted to add to what Fatoumata Diawara did with ‘Voices United for Mali’ to help to raise awareness everywhere in order to promote peace in Africa. As an African, I see the war in Mali as another wound for Africa and I wanted to show solidarity with my African brothers and sisters. This time, it is Mali, but my own home, Congo, has been suffering for decades and all over Africa, there is suffering.”

He continues, painting a very vivid image of a continent:

“Africa is like the body of a person and every time there is war, Africa bleeds and she is always bleeding somewhere – someone is always wounding Africa. That is what the chorus lyrics are about.”

Mulele Matondo Afrika is one of a growing number of sophisticated, motivated and outspoken young artists from the continent that are expressing their political frustrations through their music. He is also continuing a tradition of using music as a vehicle for pan-African philosophies. His solo album ‘Prophecy’ is a shining example, and so is this week’s Song of the Week. It is inspirational stuff and makes for an even richer experience as a listener.  


Mulele Matondo Afrika & Friends – Mali La Paix

The song is available as a free download here