This fine 2012 debut from Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara showcases her distinctive melodic voice singing her own songs in her native Bambara tongue with themes as serious as personal betrayal, the effect of wars in Africa, the plight of illegal African migrants in Europe, arranged marriage and female circumcision.
In addition to accompanying her own voice on simple acoustic guitar traditional western rock guitars, bass and drums are deployed alongside West African instruments like the kori, calabash and ngoni, so the result has a distinctive `world music' sound.
Most of the album was recorded at Livingston Studios in London and produced by Diawara and Nick Gold, and the quality of the mix is superb.
The album's main feature is Diawara's melodic voice and it has some beautiful, poignant moments. However it somehow lacks that indefinable quality (which for example Salif Keita has in spades) which really sets your hair on fire. It also needs to be said that at the by the end of the album the tracks are starting to sound very much the same, with little variation in dynamics. But there's no doubt about it: for a debut recording it's pretty impressive and knocks the spots off most `popular' music manufactured to feed the tastes of western audiences. Fatou is still young, an obviously talented natural singer and composer who seems - on the evidence of this collection - to have what it takes to develop into a significant force in world music. We should look forward to her follow-up album to see in which direction it grows.
The CD package is excellent with a 24-page booklet offering all the song lyrics in the original Bambara with translations in each case into French and English.