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Live Music Review: Fatoumata Diawara’s Nottingham Debut at Rescue Rooms

16 February 20 words: Addie Kenogbon

Our Addie looks back on a Sunday evening show that she won't be forgetting in a hurry...

It’s not every day you get to spend a cold, wintry Sunday night in the presence of someone that has not only been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards but has also collaborated and performed with some of music’s biggest names, including Sir Paul McCartney, Bobby Womack, Herbie Hancock and more recently, Disclosure. But that’s just what fans had in store for them during Fatoumata Diawara’s recent Nottingham gig at Rescue Rooms.

As the packed crowd waited for Fatoumata to take to the stage, the atmosphere was electric, with music lovers of all ages buzzing with anticipation. In an interview with us earlier in the week, Fatoumata had promised an “unforgettable evening” and the crowd were definitely here for it.

Arriving on stage amidst wild cheers and applause, Fatoumata oozed a cool, regal and commanding stage presence, dressed in head to toe traditional Malian dress and backed up by a super smooth guitarist, keys player and bass player (who was sporting an impressive 5-string).

Making use of every inch of stage, she danced, jumped and twirled her way across the space, frenzied by each enchanting beat.

Their first tune of the evening, Don Do, set the tone for the night, featuring mesmerising Afro rhythms accompanied by Fatoumata’s signature and unmistakable vocals.

As the next song’s opening notes began, Fatoumata spoke of her love for Africa and how she believed it to be a place of “happiness, music and love”, the perfect opening words for Kokoro, a song which means ancestral heritage in her native tongue and Timbuktu, a song about Fatoumata’s homeland, Mali.

Though it’s safe to say many may not have understood all the lyrics in each song of the night, that didn’t stop the wild cheers as Fatoumata cast her spell on onlookers who couldn’t help but dance along, most especially when Negue Negue’s super-funky bass line kicked in.

During the evening Fatoumata also gave special praise to African music legend, Fela Kuti and Queen of soul, Nina Simone, before launching into a hauntingly soulful rendition of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman. As the song took hold, Fatoumata, consumed by soul, discarded her headscarf in enrapturing theatrics, unveiling her sea of cowrie bejewelled locks. Making use of every inch of stage, she danced, jumped and twirled her way across the space, frenzied by each enchanting beat.

As the evening reached fever pitch, one of Fatoumata’s most popular tunes, Nterini, and its deliciously catchy riffs made sure no foot was left untapped. Special mention must also be given to Fatoumata’s incredible guitar solo too – a definite highlight of the night.

The penultimate song of the evening called for a little audience participation - like the crowd needed any further encouragement to get their feet moving. Calling for the onlookers to dip low and jump, on command, it was a feat of pure acrobatics, but none backed away from the challenge as the crowd surged and pulsed to the beat.

When the band reached their final song, Bonya, it was clear the audience just was not ready for it all to end with cheers and demands for an encore. Fatoumata did not disappoint, returning to the stage for one final song, Anisou, and ending the evening in style.

One thing’s for sure, there are definitely worse ways to spend a Sunday.

Fatoumata Diawara performed at Rescue Rooms on Sunday 2 Feb. 
Rescue Rooms website.

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