Photo by Alun Be
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- On Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 8:00pm, McCarter Theatre presents Grammy-nominated Malian singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress Fatoumata Diawara. She is a rarity among Malian singers, wielding her electric guitar to write songs that blend Wassoulou folk music, spiritually centered Afropop, and desert blues. Singing mostly in Bambara, the national language of Mali, Diawara sings about migration, African identity, motherhood, and the struggle of African women.
A veteran of the screen and stage, she debuted as an actress in the ‘90s, appearing in films such as Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s La Genèse and the Oscar-nominated Timbuktu. Since her 2011 debut LP Fatou, she’s collaborated with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Bobby Womack, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), who co-produced her latest album London Ko. In 2019 she became first Malian artist to perform at the Grammys, where she was nominated for Best World Music Album for her 2018 record Fenfo (Something to Say).
Tickets start at $25 and are available for purchase online. The concert takes place in the Matthews Theater (99 University Place in Princeton) and is part of Timbuktu Grooves: The Princeton African Music Festival, presented by Princeton University’s Department of Music.
Diawara broke out in 2011 with her debut album, Fatou, which featured guest performances from legendary musicians John Paul Jones, Tony Allen and Toumani Diabaté. The record was hailed by Pitchfork as a “beguiling album” that “simply surrounds you with its atmosphere,” while The Guardian praised it as “an enjoyable, impressive set.” She received two nominations at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards for Best World Music Album for her 2018 album Fenfo and Best Dance Recording for “Ultimatum” in which she was featured with the English artist Disclosure.
One of 11 children born to Malian parents in Ivory Coast, Diawara grew up in the ’90s in the Malian capital of Bamako. A celebrated child actor, Diawara starred in Dani Kouyaté’s critically acclaimed 2001 film Sia, The Dream of the Python. At age 19 she left home against the wishes of her family and joined the French street theater company Royale de Luxe, with whom she toured the world and began singing in the clubs and cafes of Paris. Diawara eventually found herself singing backing vocals for Dee Dee Bridgewater and Malian superstar Oumou Sangaré before signing with influential label World Circuit Records for her debut album. In addition to Sia…, Diawara’s film credits include the Academy Award-nominated Timbuktu, Morbayassa and Clouds of Conakry, as well as the documentaries The Africa Express and Mali Blues.
An independent not-for-profit performing arts center located between New York City and Philadelphia – and on the campus of Princeton University – McCarter is a multi-disciplinary creative and intellectual hub offering theater, music, dance, comedy, spoken word, and educational programs for all ages. Celebrated for developing new work and winner of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, world premieres include Christopher Durang's Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike (Tony, Best Play), Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays, and Emily Mann's Having Our Say. Equally revered for presenting renowned global artists on its stages, some of which include Alvin Ailey, Yo-Yo Ma, Samara Joy, David Sedaris, Hasan Minhaj, Terence Blanchard, Roseanne Cash, the rock band Lake Street Dive, Audra McDonald, and more. McCarter connects with the community year-round and offers on-site classes and in-school residencies. McCarter and Princeton University share a long history of unique partnerships and creative collaborations.