Fatoumata Diawara plays at Neptune tomorrow night
Fatoumata Diawara plays at Neptune tomorrow night Aida Muluneh | Courtesy of the Artist
Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara’s voice is absolutely captivating. It skips like a rock over water across different registers. It's comforting, familiar, textured—it has a Sade quality to it. The singer, who plays at Neptune tomorrow night, sings not from her belly, but from somewhere higher up in her body. Diawara combines the sounds and traditions from Wassalou music of southern Mali with Western ones. She plays an electric guitar. It's sick as fuck.

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Diawara dropped her most recent album Fenfo (Something to Say) last year, which was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 2019 Grammys. Fenfo is at once funk, Afro-pop, and folk. Each song is anchored by her aforementioned Sade-like voice. I particularly loved "Nterini," which has a slick music video directed by Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh. Diawara has a distinct visual style, combining different elements of West African dress, like headwraps, beads, necklaces, and makeup—she looks like an even more futuristic Erykah Badu. Over email, she tells me she loves all colors but that red "represents power and strength" and gives her a lot of energy.

The Malian musician has also been known to switch it up, collaborating with English electronic music group Disclosure, who are most known for putting out "Latch," the background song to every makeout session in 2013 (or was that just me). The duo approached Diawara, asking her if they could use a sample of her voice from another record in one of their own. The result was "Ultimatum," which is playful, wonky, and imminently danceable. The track was also nominated for a 2019 Grammy, but in the Best Dance Recording category. And it bangs. So, obviously, Diawara has range.

All that being said, Diawara is an incredible artist and her stop in Seattle is a big deal. Don't miss it.