West African musician to launch U.S. tour in Dayton

Performer comes from Mali, lives in Paris

Fatoumata Diawara, a singer, songwriter and guitarist from West Africa, begins her first tour of the United States on Thursday at the University of Dayton. The concert is part of Cityfolk’s World Rhythms series and is presented in collaboration with U.D.

“From the perspective of someone who has presented a number of contemporary African musicians, I am thrilled to have a chance to present a woman, especially one with a sound so beautiful, so accessible,” said Eileen Carr, coordinator of the university’s arts series.

Diawara proves that appealing rhythms, soulful singing and a brilliant smile transcend culture and language. She speaks French and English, but sings her lilting melodies in Bambara, one of the many languages of Mali. During her energetic stage shows, she sometimes abandons lyrics entirely, lapsing into a kind of global scat, dancing, spinning and swinging her long, braided hair.

Although Diawara is clearly influenced by African traditions, her music is a product of the present rather than the past. She uses contemporary instrumentation, draws from popular Western genres and promotes her work with stylish music videos.

“My style of music is Malian music, because I come from Mali,” she said in an interview with The Guardian of London. “But I try to put in different influences like jazz music, blues and rock.”

Her first solo CD, “Fatou,” was a chart-topping success after its release in Europe last year. Now available in the United States on the Nonesuch label, the recording features twelve original songs that speak of love and family relationships, war and immigration, and women’s issues such as arranged marriages and female circumcision.

Diawara was a dancer in her youth and later became a successful film and stage actress before turning to music. Her career as a performer has taken her to many countries, and she now resides in Paris.

“What’s interesting to me is the international texture of her sound, which reflects her life experiences,” said Carr. “She plays music that is Malian, but does it as someone who has savored the art and music of many different parts of the world.”

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