32 Festival Internacional Jazz Plaza La Habana
32 Festival Internacional Jazz Plaza La Habana
Photo by Carlos Pericas

SANTIAGO – THURSDAY DECEMBER 15th (+ guests: La Conga de los Hoyos)

HAVANA – SUNDAY DECEMBER 18th (+guests: Osaín del Monte)

It all began with a shared impression. After their first musical partnership, in 2011 in a Paris studio, they knew that 4 minutes and 32 seconds were not enough. They had to pursue the perfect harmony discovered in the space of a single number. That same year, Roberto Fonseca recorded his new album Yo, due to appear on the Jazz Village label of harmonia mundi. Another highlight for this major jazz piano player, who came to the attention of audiences worldwide when he accompanied Ibrahim Ferrer in 2001.

Born in Havana in 1975, by 2011 he already had a fine career and several recordings to his credit. (His first solo album, Tiene que ver, recorded in Cuba, came out in 1999 on the Egrem label). Yo is an album brimmimg with swing and blues, as well as funk and African rhythms. These relate notably to Fonseca’s links with Yoruba culture and with Santeria, the syncretic religion bequeathed by African slaves and which is « his » faith. « We had almost finished recording Yo, when we felt there was something missing », Fonseca recalls. A woman’s voice. « A voice which would be simultaneously modern and rooted in a tradition. » His recording technician then  told him about the Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara. Fonseca found her on the internet… The effect was instantaneous. This was the voice he needed !

Born in 1982 on the Ivory Coast, Fatoumata Diawara was an actress before she took up singing. At the age of 14, she played her first cinema part in the film Taafé Fanga by the Malian director Adama Drabo. She then acted with Oumar Sissoko (La Genèse), before joining the street theatre troupe Royal de Luxe («Petits Contes chinois revus et corrigés par les nègres »). In 1998, Fatoumata Diawara played at the Bouffes du Nord with Sotigui Kouyaté in Antigone. « That was when I became aware of my voice », as she later declared. She subsequently took the role of the diabolical witch Karaba in the musical comedy Kirikou et Karaba, adapted from Michel Ocelot’s cartoon film. More recently, she played in the film Timbuktu, by Abderrahmane Sissako, which won a raft of César awards in 2015. Then came Bintou Wéré, un opéra du Sahel, under the artistic direction of Wasis Diop, working with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Oumou Sangaré. In 2011, she brought out her first album Fatou, on the English label World Circuit. That same year, she met Roberto Fonseca in a studio in Paris…

« We just played together on one track, Bibisa (meaning let’s have a ball, let’s have fun, in Bambara). From then on there seemed to be a fusion of energy between us. We became brother and sister ». In Fatou’s own words ! Roberto Fonseca was just as enthusiastic. It was self-evident for them both : 4 minutes 32 seconds – the length of Bibisa – was far too short a time. Fired by this revelation, they made up a repertoire based on their respective compositions. Roberto Fonseca rearranged it all, giving a carefully honed coherence to the collection. He was in Heaven. Having never set foot in Africa, he had always dreamed of composing for an African artist. With a group mixing the music of Cuba – where Fatoumata dreamed of singing – and Africa, they set off on the road. Their transatlantic dialogue was first aired at festivals in 2014. Jazz in Marciac was on the itinerary. Their musical harmony and unity on stage were remarkable on that occasion. As the irresistible groovy swing of At Home, recorded that night, demonstrates. With panache.

LINE UP

Fatoumata Diawara – Voice & Electric Guitar, Roberto Fonseca – Piano, keyboard & Vocals, Ramsés Rodríguez  -Drums, Yandy Martinez – Bass