One of the many changes to this year’s Roskilde is the placement of the charismatic Avalon Stage, which now occupies the northeast corner of the festival grounds as part of the organizers’ aim to get more out of less space ahead of its reduced area of land from 2020 onwards.
This reviewer’s first 2019 outing at the legendary Avalon tent, I am pleased to say, honoured every expectation I had of it, as Mali’s Fatoumata Diawara delivered a pristine show from start to finish.
Varied musical influences
Beaming from ear-to-ear, Fatoumata stepped onto the stage with an air of grace about her that lifted the performance throughout. Waxing lyrical about doing away with the stereotype of Africa “as a place of war and not a place of good food and beautiful people”, the talented Diawara then unleashed the quintessentially Malian ‘Timbuktu Fasso’ – a track that usually has a mellow demeanour to it. This version got a rock styling, however, as an epic guitar solo brought it to a climax at the end.
Sounding at times like Malian music legends of old in the Amadou and Mariam / Ali Farka Touré mould, Diawara ventured into electronic and rock territory, showing off the full scope of her musical powers and versatility. In fact, there were even moments where her vocals neared the high-pitch prowess of the likes of Within Temptation – a soothing antidote to the wonderfully complex instrumentals.
Cue a befitting cover of Fela Kuti’s (yes, the legendary Fela Kuti) ‘Africa’ and an equally jaw-dropping version of Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ and it was clear that Diawara owned the night and all the magic in it. What stood out more than anything else at this show was just how much personality Diawara and her band added to each song they performed – be it their own productions or covers. Each was a unique performance in and of itself, seemingly unrehearsed to a level of unfathomable perfection.
Diawara and her talented band left as they entered: smiling and in picture-perfect positive spirits, backed by a crowd that broke into song and dance at every opportunity