O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

I'll Give You An Annual Review #20... Fatoumata Diawara

Fatoumata Diawara's Fenfo is one of the records of the year

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Jason Lewis, Reviews Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2018
a breathtakingly sad voice

20. Fenfo - Fatoumata Diawara 
The title of Fatoumata Diawara's enchanting  second album is a bit of an understatement! The Malian word  'Fenfo" translates into English as 'Something to Say', however, as her album is abundant with her concerns, ideas and (gracefully delivered), arguments, it's clear...Diawara has plenty to say. 

The video for the first single 'Nterini' opens with the stark fact that 'In a world of 7 billion people, 1 billion are migrants.'  The song brings the tale of two lovers separated by distance to life, her soulful voice expressing the longing and sadness of those so far from one another. It is also one of the finest mixes of traditional roots music with a contemporary production. 

The blues guitar that shimmers through the dusty Kokoro is reminiscent of Mali's greatest musical export Tinariwen. The lyric argues that Africans should stop turning their backs on their African heritage but should embrace it.  Diawara is equally passionate on the hypnotic Kanou Dan Ye, which protests against the ancient tradition that forbids people from different groups from marrying. 

There are moments of absolute joy on the album - the elevating Negue Negue is a simple call for everyone to share their happiness, with a ridiculously simple and infectious chorus.  Elsewhere, Bonya (Respect), is the most conventional pop tune here, although it's pretty feels lightweight alongside other tracks.  

Frequently, it's the simplest arrangements that are the most effective.  Mama (dedicated to both parents), weaves her breathtakingly sad voice around a minimal acoustic guitar and string arrangement. The album's highlight though is the anguished Don Do that closes the set, a six line reflection on the ache of unrequited love. It's loneliness amplified by the solo guitar and cello that accompany her. 

On Fenfo, Diawara offers her wise words on family, heritage, love and respect. It is an ambitious album, which is bound together by the vivid musical interpretations of her band and her own soul stirring voice. Fatoumata Diawara has something to say, the best thing we can do is to listen.

see more stories from outsideleft's Music archive »»

Jason Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

Now from Outsideleft Original Sound Recordings

MORE STORIES TO READ...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Ireland in the Rain (Part 1)
From Shannon to Limerick in the rain, Joe Ambrose lets the train take the strain
That's Why I Started This Damn Country Band
HME Creations Fashion Show
HME Creations presents a fashion fashion show in support of ACORNS children and family charity
Always See The Support Act
OL Music editor, Jason Lewis ponders the year in music and more, in ten chapters.
The Girls Won't Touch Me...
...ecause I got a misdirection! Pere Ubu is back with the creepiest record yet in their uncompromising 30-year career
Another OD at the Palace of Wisdom
Entrance and The Black Angels offer one more burning float in the great parade of Rock's dark redemption
SOME OTHER THINGS