“Close your eyes and what do you see? We all see black and then beyond that we see red. This is the colour of love and we need to be fighting for that.”
Fatoumata Diawara electrifies the Earth Hackney stage as if the world was in flames and she has to perform to save it. She moves around, a vision of African power and strength, singing of the hurt in the world and advocating for social change, knowing it is her duty as an African woman in the limelight. She takes the audience on a journey throughout her home country Mali, and into Nigeria. Her latest album, Fenfo, translates to ‘Something to Say’, a perfect encapsulation of Fatou as an artist.
Nobody is immune to the yearning, hurt and passion in her voice.
Her set includes highlights like ‘Kokoro’, where she sings about how people need to be proud of being of African descent and of the culture and civilisation. “People see Africa as a place of war and poverty, but it has an incredible history and culture and people need to be proud.” Another is ‘Timbuktu Fasso’, about how children need to be protected from violence. There is a constant debate on whether music or lyrics are more important in a song. But, as she sings in her native Bambara, nobody is immune to the yearning, hurt and passion in her voice despite not understanding the lyrics.
Fatou stands alone and delivers heart-wrenching ‘Fenfo’, she dances around, swinging her dreads. She shreds on the guitar with the band and invites the audience onstage. The sense of community is almost tangible in the room that I’m transported back to the motherland. It’s not a show to be forgotten easily.