The Town Hall Presents FATOUMATA DIAWARA
Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor Fatoumata Diawara brings her mesmerizing blend of traditional African music and elements of Western pop, rock, Afrobeat, funk and R&B to The Town Hall, Friday, February 21st at 8 p.m. Opening the show will be Los Angeles-based Guatemalan singer and songwriter Gaby Moreno.
One of the most remarkable voices to emerge in world pop in recent years, Diawara's music boldly blurs the lines between tradition and innovation. In the arc of a song, she can move from delicate textures and hypnotic grooves to hard-edged rock and back. Not surprisingly, her work has attracted the attention of musicians working on a broad range of styles, leading to collaborations with artists as diverse as Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca; singer Bobby Womack; singer and songwriter Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz fame); jazz master Herbie Hancock, and Ethiopian composer and arranger Mulatu Astatke, among others.
Living now in Italy after many years based in Paris, France, Diawara sings mostly in Bambara, the national language of Mali, and builds on the tradition of "songs of advice" from the culture of her ancestral Wassoulou region. In her songs, Diawara has addressed issues such as the pain of emigration; a need for mutual respect; the struggles of African women; life under the rule of religious fundamentalists, and the practice of female circumcision.
At her Town Hall appearance, fronting a quintet featuring electric guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums, Diawara will be featuring songs from her most recent album, fittingly titled Fenfo, which translates as "Something to Say." Fenfo was nominated for a GRAMMY in the Best World Music Album.
Indeed, her music has a punch - and a conscience.
"I didn't want to sing in English or French because I wanted to respect my African heritage," she once explained. "But I wanted a modern sound because that's the world I live in. I'm a traditionalist, but I need to experiment, too. You can keep your roots and influences but communicate them in a different style."
Her main message is hope, she said in a recent interview. It's all "about the world, peace, how Africa can be a better place, especially for women, because I am one, and I am a survivor," she elaborated. "I want to encourage those who have lost hope."
It's a blend of artistry and social engagement that embodies the spirit of the Town Hall's Global Icons series, part of the programs leading up to the venue's 100th anniversary celebration in 2021, and resonates with the history of the hall itself. The Town Hall opened in 1921 as a meeting space to debate the important issues of the day. It has been the home and birthplace to landmark social, cultural and musical events in American life.
Watch the music video for "Nterini" here:
Photo Credit: Aida Muluneh