A Track for Every Treasure

Learn about the heritage that inspired each song on Fatoumata Diawara's album about Mali

By Google Arts & Culture

Fatoumata Diawara’s talent has been recognized on the international music scene through Grammy Award nominations and glowing praise from the likes of Rolling Stone magazine, yet the artist still carries an intimate connection to her roots in Mali. 

Fatoumata Diawara

Inspired by her country’s cultural heritage and relaying messages of togetherness in support of its future, each track on Diawara’s latest album addresses a treasured element of Malian culture and makes for easy listening while soaking in the story of Mali.

Track 1: An ka bèn (Let’s Unite)

"Just right time to save them
To protect them / To love them"

The call for protection within the lyrics of the album’s opening track is an appropriate one: preservation is a recurring thread in the stories of how Mali’s culture has endured despite being repeatedly threatened over the years and centuries, from saving the  Timbuktu manuscripts from destruction to restoring historic mausoleums after they were ruined by violent extremists.

Track 2: Kalan (Education)

Let our children be educated
Let them be educated
Let our girls be educated, mother
They may become government ministers
One day they may become doctors
They may just become doctors
One day they may even be presidents

The album’s second track echoes the scholars behind the Timbuktu manuscripts, who wrote about education as a basic human right to which both boys and girls are entitled.

Track 3: Mali Ba (The Great Mali)

This country has so much to offer to the world
Our ancestors gave us such a huge legacy
People, this country has so much to offer to the world
Our ancestors suffered a lot in the world

Pride for Mali, its resilience and its legacy are clear in the lyrics of track three, which advocate for why it’s important to promote Mali’s heritage.

Track 4: One Day

One day,
We will realise
That the manuscripts in our possession
Have great significance

Let it not be lost
Let them not be lost

Fatoumata Diawara

The legacy of the Timbuktu manuscripts that Diawara sings of on the album’s fourth track is one that the families who safeguarded them have known for generations. With the recent advent of their digitization, preservation, and further study, there is hope for the wisdom contained in the manuscripts to become even more recognized worldwide.

Track 5: Save It

The days of slavery in our land are over
Today, today, by God we must look for something else
The elders, the elders 
Have entrusted us with it
Me must preserve our heritage

Fatoumata Diawara

The fifth track on the album speaks to a similar message expressed by the contemporary artists at the forefront of Mali’s art scene: that both art and music alike represent a continuation of the longstanding creativity and expression at the heart of Mali’s culture, and that the revival of hope after past hardship is not only possible, but already underway. 

Track 6: Sini (Tomorrow)

Let’s join hands my fellow Africans
No one knows what tomorrow brings

Let’s take the example of other communities far away
Their leaders joined hands in those faraway lands
We must unite, people have had enough

Fatoumata Diawara

On track six, Diawara calls to her peers in both Malian and international communities to unite in support of Mali’s future. From the digitization of its historic manuscripts and 360° imagery of its heritage buildings to the physical restoration of historic monuments and documentation of dying musical traditions, collaboration is at the heart of each of the projects that usher Mali’s cultural treasures into the digital age and aim to preserve them for the future.

Track 7: Yankandi (We Feel Good Here)

We feel good here, what can I do? 
The picture seen on the road to Bidjan 
Looks like a picture of Wouyandjan 
We feel good here, what can I do 
The Bambara is black, you are white
Let’s unite and march together 
I don’t discriminate, we are all the same 
We all love it when siblings get along well 
We all love it when there is harmony in a marriage

We all love it when true friendship blossoms 
Fellow Malians, I’ve come with my mothers to greet you 
Fellow Malians, I’ve come with my mothers to converse with you
Djinns, protectors of the village, I bow before you
Djinns, protectors of Mali, I bow before you

Fatoumata Diawara

Ending on a personal note, Yankandi (We Feel Good Here) is an anthem for togetherness, community, family, and the feel-good feeling of home. Throughout the track, Fatoumata's heartfelt pride for her country and its people shines through, all the while inspiring listeners to be curious about Mali, a special, heartfelt land of music, culture and togetherness. 

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