Event Review: Fatoumata Diawara @ Jazz Cafe (London; 26th March 2018)

A one-off performance for a one-off event. It doesn’t happen too often that we get to enjoy a Fatoumata Diawara gig in London, but on the rare occasions when the Malian musician visits the British capital, her shows are always hard-to-forget experiences.

That’s how it went on the 26th of March when Fatoumata introduced her brand-new album, titled Fenfo, which will be released in late May by Wagram/Montuno to her London fans on the Jazz Cafe stage (the same stage where she presented her debut album Fatou back in 2011).

No need to say that the venue was completely sold out (tickets sewn up within a few days of their release) and the West African singer-songwriter fully lived up to expectations and the hype.

She focused her set list on her upcoming work, in which the single “Nterini” plays the lion’s share, but also chose to include a few episodes from her first album, plus a momentous cover of the traditional tune “Sinnerman” (made popular by Nina Simone’s interpretation).

When you see her owning the stage and putting the audience under her artistic magic spell (as she did in Camden a few days ago) it’s impossible not to perceive that she’s the latest African music diva in the making. Fatoumata has charisma and magnetism. The words that she pronounces are never banal, and her music recalling her Wassoulou roots but also updating them with pop-oriented arrangements is both smooth and energetic. Add the fact that she’s a fighter too (a battler for women’s rights and a champion for her country and continent causes from immigration to equality) and you have a musician who’s already having an impact and making a difference.

That’s what music needs: a conscious “diva” who is not afraid to become an example for others.

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