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Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata DiawaraFatoumata Diawara, born 1982 in Cote d'Ivoire is a Malian musician and an actress currently living in France.

As a child she became a member of her father's dance troupe and was a popular performer of the wildly flailing didadi dance from Wassoulou, her ancestral home in western Mali.

Born in Cote d'Ivoire to Malian parents, Fatoumata's independent nature caused her difficulties in attending school.

She was an energetic and headstrong girl and at the age of twelve her refusal to go to school finally prompted her parents to send her to live and be disciplined by an aunt in Bamako. She was not to see her parents again for over a decade.

Her aunt was an actress, and a few years after arriving, Fatou found herself on a film set looking after her aunt's infant child.

The film's director was captivated by Fatou's adolescent beauty and she was given a one line part in the final scene of the film Taafe Fangan (The Power of Women).

Fatoumata DiawaraThis led to her being given a lead role by the celebrated director Cheick Omar Sissoko in his 1999 film La Genése (Genesis). At the age of 18 she moved to France to pursue acting, appearing in Cheick Oumar Sissoko's 1999 feature film La Genése, Dani Dani Kouyati's hit 2001 film Sia, le rêve du python/i>, in the internationally renowned street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe, as well as played a leading role in the musical Kirikou et Karaba.

In Paris she had a theater role in Sophocles' Antigone, directed by Kouyaté. Having toured with the troupe, she returned to Mali in 2001 for the filming of Sia - a film in which she plays the title role, which is the story of a legendary female figure in West Africa.

It was met with phenomenal success in many countries; for many Malians, Guineans, Senegalese and Burkinabe, Fatou IS Sia.

But despite the proposals of many more roles that came her way, her family wants her settled and married, so she is then forced to announce on live television she is abandoning her acting career.

An unmarried woman is considered a minor in Malian society so her family's permission was required. They refused and after much soul searching Fatou took the daring decision to run away.

At Bamako airport she managed to board a plane for Paris, narrowly escaping the pursuit of the police who had been alerted to the girl's supposed 'kidnapping'.

Fatoumata DiawaraIn 2002, the director of the company Royal de Luxe comes to Bamako to offer her a role in his new show.

With Royal de Luxe Fatou performed a variety of roles around the world including tours in Vietnam, Mexico and throughout Europe.

Royal Deluxe plays worldwide and during rehearsals and moments of quiet, she liked to sing backstage and when the director heard her he decided that she should sing during shows.

Encouraged by the reception of the public, she began between tours to perform in Parisian clubs.

There she met the musician and producer Malian Cheikh Tidiane Seck who returned to Mali to make the choruses on the albums he created for Oumou Sangaré (Seya) and Dee Dee Bridgewater (Red Earth).

She later took up the guitar and began composing her own music, writing songs that blend Wassalou traditions of Southern Mali with other international influences.

On her return to France, driven by Rokia Traoré who also encouraged her to play guitar, Fatoumata plays the role in the musical Karaba Kirikou and Karaba. Of Rokia she says with a smile:

"A Malian girl with an acoustic guitar, it was something both wonderful and bold. Why would the guitar be reserved for men?"

Fatoumata DiawaraSo she therefore learns the ropes and with her self-taught guitar began writing songs. Then and there she understands that music is her true passion and she decided to devote herself fully to it.

Noted for her sensuous voice, she has performed and recorded with Oumou Sangaré AfroCubism, Dee Dee Bridgewater on Red Earth: A Malian Journey, and the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

The EP Kanou was released May 9th, 2011, and her debut album Fatou from World Circuit Records was released in September of 2011.

Nonesuch Records released the Kanou EP digitally in North America on September 27th, 2011, and the album Fatou on August 28th, 2012.

In September 2012, she featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide - a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book.

September 2012 also saw her board the Africa Express Train with Damon Albarn, Baaba Maal, Amadou and Mariam, Nicolas Jaar, and the Noisettes, along with many others.

The show culminated in a 4.5K venue in Kings Cross where Fatoumata performed with Paul McCartney.

Fatoumata DiawaraFatou met Cheikh Tidiane Seck the celebrated Malian musician and producer who invited her to travel with him back to Mali to work on two projects as chorus vocalist.

One was Seya the GRAMMY nominated album by Mali's star Oumou Sangaré and the other Red Earth the GRAMMY winning Malian project by American jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. When the albums were released Fatou toured worldwide as singer and dancer with both of these projects.

On her return to France Fatou took the role of Karaba in the popular touring musical 'Kirikou and Karaba'. She was encouraged to take the role by her friend Rokia Traoré.

She made the decision to dedicate herself to her passion, music. She worked to complete an album's worth of songs and started recording demos for which she composed and arranged all the titles, as well as playing guitar, percussion, bass and singing lead and harmony vocals.

An introduction from Oumou Sangaré resulted in a record deal with World Circuit and the recording of her debut album.

Between recording sessions she found time to collaborate on Damon Albarn's Africa Express and contribute vocals to albums by Cheikh Lé AfroCubism, Herbie Hancock's GRAMMY winning Imagine Project and Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Fatoumata DiawaraFatou's EP Kanou was released on the 9th of May 2011, followed by her debut full length album Fatou on the 19th of September 2011 to much critical acclaim.

The album was awarded No.1 album 2011 in the world music charts, where it remained for 6 months. It was also given No.1 in several end-of-year album polls including The Times and Mojo.

Following the release Fatoumata performed as part of Damon Albarn's album and live project Rocket Juice and the Moon (Honest Jon's) which featured himself, Tony Allen and Flea.

Fatou also featured Roberto Fonseca's recent release YO and on Bobby Womack's album The Bravest Man In The Universe (XL) which was co-produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell.

In September Fatou 2012 boarded the Africa Express Train with Damon Albarn, Baaba Maal, Amamdou and Mariam, Nicolas Jaar, and the Noisettes, along with many others.

The tour was a huge success selling out each venue it played in. The show culminated in a 4.5K venue in Kings Cross where Fatou performed with Paul McCartney

Fatoumata DiawaraFatoumata Diawara was the subject of an in-depth feature profile on African Voices on CNN, exploring her early days in Mali, an acting career that led to world travel, her music, and her recent efforts insupport of peace in Mali.

Fatou linked up with The Roots at the Clinton Global Initiative's Award Gala for the Randy Jackson-produced musical portion of the night, which featured the Roots Crew playing alongside Elvis Costello, Rahzel, Matana Roberts and Emily Wells.

Fatoumata has spent the last several years touring the world, with a landmark performance for the English-speaking public at Glastonbury in 2013.

Alongside many European gigs her schedule has taken her to South America, Asia and Australia - as well as on multiple trips to the US, where in September of 2013 she performed as part of the Clinton Global Initiative alongside The Roots in New York.

Since the middle of 2014 she has been in collaboration with Roberto Fonseca, with numerous live performances and a joint live album, At Home - Live in Marciac, along the way. In 2014 she also extended her list of collaborations by a joint performance with Mayra Andrade and Omara Portuondo.

February 2015 saw her first live concert as an established international artist back home at the Festival Sur Le Niger in Ségou, Mali, where she shared the stage once again with her long-time friend and mentor, Oumou Sangaré with Bassekou Kouyate and a number of other domestic acts.

As well as her musical career, she has continued her involvement in cinema, with numerous roles, appearances and musical input in multiple feature films, such as the seven times César Award winning and Academy Award nominated 2014 Timbuktu.

Fatoumata DiawaraNow based in Paris, and yet still only 29 years of age, Fatoumata has had a life covering a whole range of contemporary African experience: fighting parental opposition to her artistic ambitions and the cultural prejudice faced by women throughout Africa, winning success as an actress in film and theatre, before finding that her passion deeply rooted in music.

On her CD the song Diagneke underscores a wry comment on a woman's right to choose her marriage partner, while Boloco offsets Fatoumata's heartfelt vocal on the hugely controversial subject of female circumcision with touches of exquisitely understated guitar and ngoni lute from talented young players Guimba and Moh Kouyate.

The song Sowa with just voice and acoustic guitar - the lyrics inspired by her own painful experience of the African practice of giving children to be raised by others:

"Before sending your children to suffer, look them in the eyes!"

Fatou became the first woman to receive the Science for Peace award from the Veronesi Foundation in Milan.

'I would like to thank all the artists that took part in Maliko, the song for peace that we recorded in Bamako in 2012, without the faith they showed in me this project would never have been possible. The song Mali-Ko is the proof that peace in Mali is possible and that many different voices can speak as one voice.

Finally I would like to dedicate this award to all the children refugees in this world; we need peace for them'.

- FATOUMATA DIAWARA - November 2013

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  • 1996 : Taafe Fanga by Adama Drabo
  • 1999 : La Genèse by Cheick Oumar Sissoko : Dina
  • 2002 : Sia, le rêve du python by Dani Kouyaté : Sia
  • 2008 : Il va pleuvoir sur Conakry, by Cheick Fantamady Camara : Siré
  • 2010 : Encourage, by Eleonora Campanella
  • 2010 : Ni brune ni blonde, by Abderrahmane Sissako
  • 2011 : Les Contes de la Nuit, by Michel Ocelot(voice)
  • 2014 : Timbuktu (Le chagrin des oiseaux), by Abderrahmane Sissako


  • 1998 : Antigone by Sophocle ; adapted by Jean-Louis Sagot Duvauroux, production Sotiguy Kouyaté
  • 2002 -2008 : Royal de Luxe ; creator Jean-Luc Courcoult
  • 2007-2008 : Kirikou et Karaba : Karaba


  • 2011 : Fatou (World Circuit - Album)
  • 2012 : Featuring in Rocket Juice & the Moon Honest Jon's - Album)
  • 2012 : Featuring in the song "Nothin' Can Save Ya" from The Bravest Man In The Universe album by Bobby Womack


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