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Fatoumata Diawara – London Ko Review

Music for the soul, by the soul. Wassoulou releases are few and far between, but with Fatoumata Diawara, the incredible voice and mind behind London Ko, there is no need for much more. She charts the songs of advice with great chemistry on a setlist of supporting and producing acts that need little to no introduction. Damon Albarn and M.anifest are just two of an endlessly star-studded collection of featured individuals who make up the fabric of London Ko. Expectedly uplifting, the confident tone assured after three preceding studio albums, the consistency felt on these fourteen tracks is striking. Diawara explores the generosity of Mali, Africa, and with that expands her love for her home country, for her family and the need to rekindle the flickering love for your hometown. 

Easier to do since Diawara does not have to contend with a frequently food-poisoning Wetherspoon, but the point remains. Love is found where family begins and NSERA explores that with confidence. Appeal from Albarn pours through as he captures a drop or two of Diawara’s soulful lead and electric guitar work. The Gorillaz and Blur frontman is on hand for some chords and synth bass, barely heard as he drops back to make sure the track comes together. Somaw continues the trend, a synth-funk counter to being in the arms of loved ones, instead charting how harrowing it is to be so far away. Lyrically not as strong to read as it is to listen in, but moving to the beat and rhythm these tracks provide can be enough to elicit an emotional consistency.  

It was and is the people we miss when moving away, no matter the distance. London Ko brings that fear, that wonderful acceptance and positivity, out very well. Sete enjoys some rhythmic flow from a nice pairing of backing vocals and electric guitar while Seguen takes a sharper, darker groove in its sharp bass groove. Collaborating with French pop artist -M- does little for Massa Den but does add an extra name to a heavy slate of collaborative efforts which make up the middle of this piece. Mogokan and Blues strike well, their collaboration-heavy momentum, the back and forth they create, is marvellous. Those softer moments which follow on Mossayua are delicately placed and form a necessary, emotional core for London Ko.  

Therein lies the quality form Diawara displays so frequently on London Ko, an intimate and well-reasoned display of her most intimate feelings and thoughts. Demonstrating that thoroughly and consistently is a treat for listeners, a confident showcase detailing grand instrumentals and a soulful, moving vocalist. Hitting her stride and following up her third album in record time, the glacial wait between Diawara’s first and second albums is no more. Here is her fourth, a wonderful collection of inspired and well-detailed tracks featuring some major names. Diawara will find herself brushing shoulders with them yet again, there is no doubt about that. Consistency is key, and quality is assured. An incredible blend of the two gives Diawara a record filled with striking moments and risky, well-delivered instrumental flavour.  

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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