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The autumn leaves are falling, you go to work in the dark and return in the dark and the winter chill seems poised to enter our lives. Why not therefore get a final blast of summer before the permafrost descends by purchasing this vibrant feast of Malian music from the brilliant Fatoumata Diawara who recently stole the show on Jools Holland. Hailing from Southern Mali and singing in her native Wassoulou language, Diawara determined to make it as an actress in Paris but found that the draw of music proved a far stronger primal urge. The loss to the Thespian profession is music lovers massive gain since "Fatou" is a stunning record full of colour, verve, rhythm and excitement. It is one of the best African music LPs you will hear but it is also much more than that. The swirling melodic guitars of this record combined with the multilayered vocals show a real soul/funk sensibility at work combined with lyrics which we are told pulse with the concerns of social justice not least denouncing arranged marriage and female circumcision. What some might see as a language barrier in terms of lyrical understanding actually adds to the sheer beauty of the record since it makes for an entrancing backdrop and the musical force of the songs carries all in their wake.

The laid-back funky opener "Kanou" is a fine start with its hypnotic vocal and pulsating bass interwoven with gentle acoustic guitar lines which dance around the song like a summer breeze. The second song in is "Sowa" which is irresistible and hugely commercial, indeed it is surprising that Western singers are resisting the temptation to draw inspiration from this deep well. One song which might just be the "first amongst equals" in album of standouts is "Bakonoba" which David Byrne would have died to record in Talking Heads and which draws in music from across the Atlantic in terms of the intoxicating mix branded with the label AfroCubism. It is utterly infectious and the African guitar playing the best this side of Tinarwaren . The mood quietens for the sumptuous guitar ballad "Alama" which was such as show-stopper on Jools Holland where you can see the elegant Diawara in all her glory. Another song "Willie" also plays to the more tender side of Diawara and the sheer emotion and range of Fatoumata Diawara's voice demonstrates a force of nature at work. The good old Daily Telegraph has described Diawara as "the most beguiling talent to hit the world music scene in some time". On the evidence of the entirety of "Fatou" and songs such as the brilliant closer "Clandestin" we are seeing yet another music artist from Mali poised for world domination which would be just reward for one of 2011's best albums.

PS Can I thank One more opinion for pointing out a silly typo in this original review posting.
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on 19 September 2011
This debut album is truly delightful. Combining lovely melodies with strong, simple rhythms, delicate guitar-playing and striking vocals, Fatoumata Diawara marks herself out as a rising star of modern Malian singer-songwriters. There are serious messages to a number of her songs (the lyrics are translated in the extensive liner notes), including Bissa (arranged marriage) and Boloko (female circumcision), but there is just as much of the bright & playful side of Fatou on Bakonoba and her ode to love - Kanou. The album has been beautifully produced, as you would expect from World Circuit, and that allows Fatou & her songs to simply shine.
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on 30 December 2011
Joyful and reflective in equal measure, Fatou is a superb debut album by this hugely talented Paris-based Malian sensation. My album of the year for 2011, first impressions were confirmed when seeing her at London's Jazz Cafe. Fatoumata Diawara is simply superb - soulful vocals, delicate and intricate guitar playing, backed up by rythmic percussion - the album has everything. From the beautiful, reflective tracks, Wilile and Clandestin, to the catchy dance tracks, Bakonoba and Bissa (single from the album), this album has something for everyone who loves African music. Highly recommended
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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.
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on 29 October 2011
I first saw Fatoumata Diawara on Jools Hollands Later and immediately ordered the album.
I was not disappointed - it is a beautifully simple and calming album which whilst not too demanding of the listener has depth and longevity.
My 6 and 8 year old daughters love it too!
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on 21 May 2013
This music plants the African landscape in your imagination and invites you to party in it. This is a lovely upbeat collection of exquisitely played guitar based songs.
She has a beautiful resonant voice with a tonal quality that matches her guitar, and with which she delivers strong melody embellished with intricate decoration - but with tasteful restraint.
I defy you to listen to it and not be humming the songs repeatedly afterwards.
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on 7 July 2013
I love her voice and the beats. I feel chilled out and energized all at the same time by this beautiful collection of uplifting soul foul sounds that bring back to my motherland. I love it and keep sharing it. I want all to learn and know her. And buy her album. I am looking for more. I have fall in love with her talent and voice.
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on 12 January 2014
If you like African music then you will greatly enjoy Fatou. If you are new to this genre then it is a good place to start. I feel very fortunate to have had a great deal of exposure to African music over the years and have attained a real appreciation for it. Stand out tracks on this album are Kanou, Sowa, Kele and Bissa, however all tracks are beautiful. Strongly recommended
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on 16 July 2012
Fatoumata Diawara was an entirely new name to me until I heard her play live with her group at this year's Jazz a Vienne festival and then appear as a backing singer in Bela Fleck's African project. Performing live, Diawara immediately grabbed the attention of the audience with a her wonderful voice and she had most people up and dancing, despite the mid-day heat, well before the set had reached any sort of climax. Her band were superb and the combination of her blightly coloured clothes and exuberant dancing ensured guaranteed that her set was a memorable spectacle. Difficult to be anything less than enthusiastic about this performer in these circumstances.

Listening to this CD, however, it is difficult not to be slightly disappointed as good as it is. The excitement of the live performance is replaced with more reflective material with lyrics that reflect socially charged subjects. Compared to the anodine dross served up by the woeful Melody Gardot who also performed live at the festival, this is most demonstrably "real" music. Although my main passion is jazz, I love singers such as Angelique Kidjo and this record doesn't quite have the range of styles or moods that the Beninoise is capable of. It is less "commercial" and refuses to tip it's hat towards even Western pop or jazz in the way that Kidjo is able to - the older woman perhaps being a more sophisticated performer in a number of styles. The music is extremely well played and there are moments "Bakanoba" where the music captures the live experience but this is a more restrained effort overall and a bit more reflective than her performance on stage would suggest. Many of the themes have a snakey feel to them with the melodic lines twisting and turning over the odd-meters . If there is a problem, it is the lack of diversity with most pieces being of the same medium tempo gait but the CD is very pleasant none-the-less.

In summary, this is a CD that grows on you with repeated listening but doesn't quite match up to the shear joy of hearing Fatoumata perform live. Easily one of the most pleasing new discoveries in performance for me in 2012.
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on 13 June 2015
Who needs to understand what Fatou is singing when her voice (at times joined by others) moves between storytelling and plaintive. A great voice accompanied by guitar and drums - you can almost feel the warmth coming through the speakers.
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