Fatoumata Diawara: I'm working on a voice for women that didn't exist before

Fatoumata Diawara: I'm working on a voice for women that didn't exist before

Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara may be a newer name to music fans in the States but she has had a long career in her native country and her homebase, France, since the mid-'90s as a stage and film actress. She blends the background of southwestern Mali's Wassoulou traditions with her life experiences in expressions of folk, jazz, and R&B. Diawara has established herself stateside with cool collaborations with the likes of the legendary "Queen of Wassoulou" Oumou Sangaré, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, Blur's Damon Albarn, jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, and even soul man Bobby Womack.

Another round of dates to spread her colorful and rhythmic sound and dance brings her to the Cedar Cultural Center Friday night. Gimme Noise had a chance to chat with Fatoumata on the phone when she was in Texas.

Gimme Noise: Hey Fatoumata, you on the road?

Fatoumata Diawara: Yeah, we're in Texas. We just finished dinner. We had BBQ.

Well we're really excited to have you up here for the first time. You've been to the States before though, correct?

Yes, this is my second U.S. tour. We were in America for three weeks last October. I was in many places for the first time. This time even more, so I'm really enjoying it. It's very great. Very different than Europe. Many people here know about my country, Mali. They want to know more. It's really interesting and welcoming.

How do you feel your music represents Mali?

Music is the most important thing in Mali. In many ways it is all we have. It gives people hope. We have a strong culture and music is the story of my country. We need people to continue to walk on and music gives them hope. Music is giving and my music isn't just political, I wish for it to raise a joyful spirit for people. For children and women.

There's a big tradition to your style in Mali.

There is. Oumou Sangaré and Salif Keita, those are the voices that inspired me, so I wish to inspire others like they did for me. The message of music for Mali is very clear.

How is your sound or your voice different? Do you feel it's more modern as it seems to incorporate other worldly traditions?

For me it's more generational. I'm working on a voice for women that didn't exist before. As a woman I'm going to sing about different things. For our generation to continue. Like if it's possible to ever have a woman president. It's about dreaming of the possibilities.

So tell me about your experience as an actress. That's how you started out your career, but are you still acting much or has music taken over?

I did a movie last year but I don't have much time for them anymore. I was really young when I started working in movies.

Oh cool. What's the film?

It's called Mor Yassa. It's more for Africa.

So you recorded with Bobby Womack on his record Bravest Man in the World last year. How was that? I mean did you grow up hearing his music?

Yeah, I listened to him when I was young. I had met him in London. I felt so lucky to have met him and then to sing with him on his record. He's naturally one of the most classic singers. That was just so fantastic!

So I imagine you don't know much about Minnesota or the Twin Cities. I would guess it's all very new to you. I suppose, if anything you might know the singer Prince?



Prince? Oh yeah. He lives in Minneapolis? My band are big big fans of him. We would love that. He's certainly invited. I can't even explain to you, my English is so bad. I really like his talents. His songs always have so many different stories.

Fatoumata Diawara performs Friday, April 12, at the Cedar Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance. All ages welcome.

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