Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo

The Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara is often described in terms of her voice—soulful, sensuous, poignant, passionate—but perhaps the foundational qualities she brings to her music are wisdom and independence. She knows the value of tradition because she has tested its boundaries—at 19 she defied her family, avoiding an arranged marriage by running off to join a French theater company. She understands the importance of … More Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo

Habib Koité: Soô

Traffic, drought and Kardashians may dent the Los Angeles brand, but the city still charmed Habib Koité, the great Malian singer-songwriter and descendant of griots. L.A. is his tribute song, favorably measuring Southern California’s sun, hills, even livestock, against what his own country offers. “Avoid comparing yourself to a race of heroes/Theirs is a special brew you should avoid drinking,” he sings, in Bambara, before switching to a chorus in English about consoling tequila (video 1) … More Habib Koité: Soô