2018 was the perfect time for Fatoumata Diawara to break out with Fenfo, (“Something to say”), and in 2023 conditions are ripe for this great African voice to launch London Ko, a new album that looks to the future.
Nominated at the Grammy Awards and the Victoires de la Musique in 2019; awarded best female artist at the Awards d’Afrique 2020; nominated for the AEAUSA in 2022, Fatoumata Diawara earned the highest honours with a record that condensed the essence of her musical journey since Fatou (2011). She casts the keen eye of an African woman over controversial issues in contemporary society. The perfect combination of electronic sounds and the traditional melodies of a kora or N’goni, Mandinka rhythms in the percussion and Fatou’s griotic voice, was carefully reflected by her production company, Montuno, and by Mathieu Cheddid, who accompanied her on guitar and co-produced the album. The record was further enhanced by incredible photographs and videos made in Ethiopia by Aida Muluneh, whose exhibitions have travelled as far as New York, showing at MOMA.
“I’ve had so many different musical adventures since the last album, touring and working with so many other musicians and I think you can hear how all of that feeds into this record” she says. “This is my time and I’m sharing my soul.”
Over the last ten years, the Malian artist has participated in a huge number of collaborations in Europe, the United States and, of course, in Africa. She welcomes this as an ideas lab that will help to forge her own style: even more visionary, even less definable. Amongst these encounters is another central figure, Damon Albarn. The artist, who invited her to share the Africa Express stage with Paul McCartney in London in 2012, and then to duet on Désolé, on the 2020 Gorillaz album, has continued his adventure with the Malian singer, co-producing six tracks on her new album London Ko. The title speaks volumes about the connection between the two artists, a definite choice to showcase the importance of sharing and the richness that can be found in difference, at a time when globalisation and discrimination are on the rise.