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June 13, 2013
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'Spell-weaving' West African music Sunday

West African singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara will bring her spell-weaving voice, poignant songs of liberation and her will to dance to the Center for the Arts stage Sunday.

Diawara was raised in a small village in Mali and now lives in Paris. She has received rave reviews since the release of her new album, “Fatou,” featuring Toumani Diabate on kora — a West African 21-stringed instrument — and Tony Allen on drums. The album was No. 1 on the European world music chart for six months.

Damon Albarn and Herbie Hancock are paying attention to Diawara’s music. She has performed with Africa Express, AfroCubism and Hancock’s “Imagine” project.

In addition to her own constant global touring, Diawara performed as part of Albarn’s new project, “Rocket Juice and the Moon,” this past fall. Albarn’s super-group features Tony Allen and Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Diawara played a main role in the live shows and is featured on several tracks on the studio album of the same name. She also recorded a track with soul veteran Bobby Womack for his album, “The Bravest Man in the Universe.”

She struggled to get where she is. Diawara fought her parents’ opposition to her artistic career and her culture’s attitudes toward women. She acted in theater and film before beginning her musical career.

Diawara uses elements of jazz, pop and funk along with her ancestral Wassoulou tradition in her songwriting and arrangements, accompanying her voice with rhythmical guitar playing and her own percussion work.

“I play what I hear. Whatever my little angel tells me, I play on guitar,” she said.

Her lyrics speak to women’s issues of her native country such as: female circumcision, a woman’s right to choose her spouse and the songwriter’s own painful experience with the African practice of being raised away from her parents. She writes songs of difficult subjects she does not fully understand in order to “liberate herself.”

“When women rise up in Africa, it will be a tough time because there is an empty place to be filled. They will fill it,” she said.

For more about Diawara, visit

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The Union Updated Jun 13, 2013 03:38AM Published Jun 13, 2013 03:38AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.