Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo review – a seductive marriage of ancient and modern


Pierced of lip, electric guitarist Fatoumata Diawara has verve to spare, and a dynamic voice whose partial cloudiness is fundamental to its appeal. The singer released her debut album, Fatou, in 2011; an intervening aeon has seen the Mali-born, Paris-based artist act in films and collaborate extensively; Ultimatum, her Disclosure feature, was released earlier this month. In the wake of the discovery last year of slave markets in Libya, she recorded a powerful anti-racism track, Djonya.

Fenfo (“Something to Say” in Bambara) finds Diawara engaged on an outreach programme, making contemporary roots music about themes that range from the specifically African – Kanou Dan Yen lambasts the tradition that stops different ethnic groups intermarrying – to the universal. Don Do, the album closer, finds Diawara aching about unrequited love to a sparse accompaniment: her electric guitar and Vincent Ségal’s cello. Fenfo’s most seductive marriages of ancient and modern have already come out: Nterini, the lead track, and the mesmeric Kokoro.

Nonetheless, the depths of the tracklisting are a surprise. Ridiculously easy on the ear, Bonya (Respect) spikes 60s US R&B with kora runs courtesy of both Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, while Dibi Bo comes to Anglophone ears as finger-clicking doo-wop that also invites you to sing along; exercise caution, however, on Negue Negue.

Watch the vide for Nterini by Fatoumata Diawara.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Fatoumata Diawara: Fatou – review
Neil Spencer enjoys a folksy album by a former actress on which women's rights take pride of place

Neil Spencer

17, Sep, 2011 @10:30 PM

Fatoumata Diawara – review
Diawara's professional and eclectic set included funk, jazz and the music of Mali's Wassoulou region, but was lacking in excitement, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

14, Oct, 2011 @3:30 PM

Fatoumata Diawara: Fatou – review
In this enjoyable, impressive set, Fatoumata Diawara demonstrates her soulful vocals, and the mood is often light and laidback, writes Robin Denselow

Robin Denselow

15, Sep, 2011 @10:01 PM

Article image
Fatoumata Diawara: 'We can present our culture in a new way'

The Malian singer on her hopes for African music and the Africa Express 2012 tour. Interview by Neil Spencer

Interview by Neil Spencer

25, Aug, 2012 @11:08 PM

Article image
Weekender: Fatoumata Diawara, singer, 29

'Sundays are quiet. I love to be at home, playing guitar, writing songs, tending to my window box'

Interview: Becky Barnicoat. Portrait: Emily Stein

23, Sep, 2011 @9:59 PM

Article image
Fatoumata Diawara: 'Singing is a medicine'

She might work with Flea and Damon Albarn, but Fatoumata Diawara's still singing to her countrywomen in Mali, she tells Caspar Llewellyn Smith

Caspar Llewellyn Smith

21, Mar, 2012 @6:30 PM

Fatoumata Diawara: Clandestin live session - video

Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara visits the Guardian studio to enchant us with an exclusive live version of the song Clandestin from her album Fatou

Ben Kape, Andy Gallagher, Mustafa Khalili and Richard Sprenger

01, Dec, 2011 @12:42 PM

Fatoumata Diawara performs Sowa live - video

Malian-born Fatoumata Diawara is joined live on stage at the Guardian Open Weekend festival in March by Romeo Stodart of the Magic Numbers

Andy Gallagher, Lindsay Poulton and Laurence Topham

27, Apr, 2012 @8:25 AM

Article image
Ibiza: The Silent Movie review – bacchanalia ancient and modern
Julien Temple’s documentary links the island’s long history to its modern clubbing reputation

Simran Hans

07, Jul, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Marina: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land review – ambitious manifesto pop
The Welsh singer brings an operatic seductiveness to her ballads against misogyny

Damien Morris

13, Jun, 2021 @12:00 PM