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Interview: Grammy-Nominated Fatoumata Diawara Prepares For Her First Nottingham Trip

27 January 20 interview: Addie Kenogbon

Addie Kenogbon chats with the star about staying true to her roots and sharing her music with the world as she embarks on a rare UK tour, coming to Rescue Rooms this February...

Hailing from the Ivory Coast and Mali, Fatoumata Diawara has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Bobby Womack and Herbie Hancock, shared a stage with Sir Paul McCartney and played to thousands at Glastonbury. In recent years, Fatoumata Diawara can be found touring the world bringing her unique style of African folk, poetry, R&B and funk to music lovers around the globe. 

Blending hauntingly stunning vocals with African inspired melodies and beats, it’s clear to see why Fatoumata is being lauded as one of the most talked about names in modern African music.

Ahead of her upcoming show at Rescue Rooms, the multi-Grammy nominee talks about her latest release, FENFO, her current UK tour and her diverse career so far.

You’ve spent the last few years touring the world but where would you say is the best place you’ve performed so far and why?
I love performing. The stage is my medicine where I am free and where I can be myself so that is the best place for me. Each town I play is unique and special though - indeed I love to perform in my homeland, but I really do not make too many distinctions. All are amazing opportunities for me to share my music.

Have you been to Nottingham before and if so, what do you think about the city?
No, not that I remember so I am really looking forward to it.

You’ve accomplished so much so far in your career, but what would you say has been your biggest highlight so far?
Indeed the Grammy nomination was such great recognition (this only happened last year). I am also very proud of all the other recognitions I achieved with my latest album FENFO and for the great opportunities to play with some amazing musicians - not only the ones you mentioned, but also people like Damon Albarn, Matthew Chedid, Amadou & Mariam, Roberto Fonseca, Oumou Sangar and many others. Each one of them has brought me knowledge and all together has helped me grow, so this is the biggest highlight.

Your music seems to have the ability to transcend different ages and cultures combining soul, funk and R&B with the most infectious Afro beats. Why do you think your music resonates with so many people?
My music combines tradition with modernity - my roots are very alive in my music so I trust that it must be that combination that makes the music appealing to such a different range of audiences.

In each one of your records your love for your heritage is unmistakable. Is this something that has been important to you in each new record you’ve released?
Yes indeed, heritage is a big part of understanding music and an absolutely key element in my compositions.

It feels like a really exciting time for African and African-inspired music with more African artists making it onto the mainstream all the time. As someone that has been flying the flag for African music for years, what do you make of this?
This makes me really happy. It’s a great opportunity for the younger generations. Africa has had and still has many amazing musicians, but it’s now definitely the time for Africa to become much more visible. I’m very happy to be a part of this!

Can you describe your latest record, ‘FENFO  A COLOURS SHOW’ in three words?

What can Nottingham music lovers expect from your show at Rescue Rooms?
I can promise them a very big night with a great variety of songs (and moments), all played by amazing musicians. I would like to think that it will be an unforgettable evening for them.

What does 2020 hold for you and your fans? Will you be releasing any more new material and can you say if you’ll be playing any festivals this summer?
I will keep touring FENFO, but there is indeed already something in the oven. I’m planning some new collaborations as well as summer festival shows in many different countries, including the UK.

Fatoumata Diawara plays at Rescue Rooms on 2 February with tickets priced at £15.00. 

Buy tickets.

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