With his 2012 release Yo, Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca launched a new phase in his musical career. Including African instruments such as the talking drum, the n’goni and the kora alongside a Hammond organ, the musician initiated an interesting fusion of his trademark Afro-Cuban groove with African-based griot traditions and rhythms. One of the highlights of Yo included “Bibisa”, a duet featuring France-based Malian singer songwriter and actress Fatoumata Diawara.

This 2012 musical partnership sowed the seeds for further cooperation between the two musicians which culminated in a first 2014 European tour followed by live album. Recorded at the 2014 Jazz in Marciac festival and introduced as a “transatlantic get together”, At Home was released in April 2015 on the Jazz Village label.

Fatoumata Diawara & Roberto Fonseca - At Home (2015)
Fatoumata Diawara & Roberto Fonseca – At Home (2015)

Roberto Fonseca first appeared at the French jazz festival in 2005 as part of Ibrahim Ferrer’s backing band and has since been a regular act there. The electric atmosphere he generates during his concerts has even been captured on his 2010 CD/DVD release Live in Marciac.

Backed by a brilliant 5 piece band (drums, percussion, bass, n’goni and guitar), At Home features six songs taken from the two musicians’ respective repertoire. Roberto Fonseca’s jazz funk chords on the clavinet on the opening track set the tone for an exhilarating performance for the duo. A Fatoumata Diawara guitar-backed composition which originally appeared on her 2011 début album Fatou, “Sowa” takes a stunning jazz turn driven by the dazzling keyboard skills of Roberto Fonseca.

The 14 minute long “Connection” brings the Afro-Cuban fusion further into the jazz territory leaving ample space to Yandi Martinez on bass, Sekou Bah on guitar and Drissa Sibide on n’goni to elaborate on the theme. Fatoumata Diawara’s warm voice shines on slower ballads while rhythmic numbers are punctuated by yells and high-pitched ululations, bewitching the audience in the process.

As the first woman spearheading a major Afro-Cuban musical collaboration, Fatoumata Diawara has also become the voice of a young African generation through her singing, advocating the rights of women and the free movement of Africans around the world.

Our young people get up and decide to emigrate
To go on an adventure in search of money
They left their mothers at home
They left their fathers at home
Some call them “illegals”
But we call them Men of Adventure (Clandestin)