RISING music star Fatoumata Diawara has had a fascinating journey to her chosen career.

Born in the Ivory Coast to Malian parents, she moved to Paris to become an actress, and eventually turned to music.

Fatoumata, who will be performing at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal next month, has spent a number of years touring the world with her band, and has worked with a number of major stars, and shared a stage with former Beatle Paul McCartney.

Ahead of her gig in Cumbria, she revealed the fascinating journey that has led to her being hailed as one of the standard-bearers of modern African music

“I was born in the Ivory Coast but I was 12 years old when we moved, so I don’t have a lot of memory about that,” she admitted.

“I grew up with professional musicians such as my father and my sister, they inspired me a lot. My father was an artist, and as a Malian man music was part of Malian culture. Because he was working with culture, he promoted traditional music.”

But instead of following a career in music, Fatamouta moved to France to pursue acting.

“My aunt didn’t want me to go to Paris when I was young, she wanted to protect me, but I decided to change my life,” she said.

In France, Fatoumata appeared in Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s 1999 feature film Genesis, Dani Kouyaté’s popular 2001 film Sia, le rêve du python, in the internationally renowned street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe, and played a leading role in the musical Kirikou et Karaba.

But eventually the music bug took over, and Fatoumata began to write her own songs.

“I had been singing in bars in Paris with my friends,” she said. “When I started creating my own music, every time I went to see a guitar player they were always telling me to be a reggae singer or traditional.

It was difficult for them to see me as anything else, so I taught myself. I went to the guitar shop and bought my own guitar, and bought some books.”

She began to write songs that blend Wassoulou traditions of southern Mali with international influences. Noted for her ‘sensuous voice,’ she has performed or recorded with Malian and international greats such as Cheick Tidiane Seck, Oumou Sangaré, AfroCubism, Dee Dee Bridgewater (on Red Earth: A Malian Journey), and the Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou.

Her voice, she reveals, always attracted appreciative comments from other people, even from a young age.

“I used to dance with the girls and the women, and I had a lot of special feeling for the traditional music,” she said.

“I had been singing in the theatre, but every time a lot of people were coming to me and saying they feel like they know me through my music.”

Fatoumata has spent recent years touring the world, as well as working with some of the biggest names in contemporary music. She recorded with Bobby Womack and Herbie Hancock, played Glastonbury and other major festivals, and toured with the Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca.

She assembled a West African super-group featuring Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangaré and Toumani Diabaté to record a song calling for peace in her troubled homeland and also climbed aboard Damon Albarn’s star-studded Africa Express, which culminated in her sharing a stage with Sir Paul McCartney in London.

“It was amazing being on stage with Paul McCartney, absolutely huge, I was just so thankful. There are no boundaries in music,” said Fatoumata.

Fatoumata took her artistry to fresh heights on her most recent album ‘Fenfo’. A modern-day storyteller, her songs cover such timeless subjects as respect, humility, love, migration, family and how to build a better world for our children.

It’s a record that defines her as the voice of young African womanhood – proud of her heritage but with a vision that looks confidently to the future and a message that is universal.

“The melody matters to me more than the lyrics. I don’t want to be serious too much and bore people. I want them to relax first. The most important thing for me is the melody. Music is about sharing. I like to share,” she said.

Her spectacular 2011 debut album ‘Fatou’ made the Malian singer and guitarist the most talked about new African artist on the planet.

“I’ve had so many different musical adventures since the last album, touring and working with so many other musicians and I think you can hear how all of that feeds into this record,” she says. “This is my time and I’m sharing my soul.”

Her touring schedule has taken her to Europe, South America, Asia and Australia as well as on multiple trips to the US, where in September 2013 she performed as part of the Clinton Global Initiative alongside The Roots in New York. Since mid-2014 she has been in collaboration with Roberto Fonseca, with numerous live performances and a joint live album, At Home – Live in Marciac, along the way.

In 2014 she also extended her list of collaborations by a joint performance with Mayra Andrade and Omara Portuondo. February 2015 saw her first live concert as an established international name back home at the Festival Sur Le Niger in Ségou, Mali, where she shared stage once again with her long-time friend and mentor, Oumou Sangaré, with Bassekou Kouyate and many other domestic acts.

Her band consists of a drummer, bass player, keyboard player and a guitarist, with Fatoumata also playing guitar.

Ahead of her gig in Kendal, at the Brewery Arts Centre on February 1, she said: “I just want to invite everyone to come to my show, and enjoy this beautiful music. I am coming for them, and I want them to come for me. It is blues straight from Mali, and rock and roll.”

Go to https://www.breweryarts.co.uk/