Friday, December 7, 2012

Fantani Touré

In Mali, the voice of Fantani Touré rings out like a shout. Hers is the voice of a woman who has won battles against prejudice, against silence and against discouragement.

Touré is also notable for the fight she has led for several years against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). In so doing, she has demonstrated how all women in Mali and throughout Africa can contribute a building block to the cause on behalf of women. One of Mali’s best-known artists, she is also the initiator and founder of the international Voices of Bamako Festival (Voix de Bamako), a forum for discussing various topics related to women’s issues. For her myriad efforts, Touré was decorated in January 2011 with the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre et de la Valeur by the president of Mali Amadou Toumani Touré. The award was bestowed in recognition of her artistic talent and her activities on behalf of the promotion of women and human rights.
Touré is a descendant of the first inhabitants of Bamako, the grand religious marabouts, who were renowned throughout the country. She comes from a large, extended family which is native to the  popular quarter of Bamako called Bozola. This artist took her first steps in her craft at a very young age, participating in various contests held in her neighborhood. These contests led to inter-community contests, which then led to artistic and cultural biennales of art and music in Mali.

 However, as she grew older, her parents began to discourage and oppose her pursuit of singing as a career. Given her family lineage, according the traditional caste system still firmly in place in Mali, it was unthinkable that a Touré would become a singer - much less one who sang before the masses. So, as Fantani recalls, “They married me off. I was 19 years old. My husband was of course in agreement with them. But this was much stronger than me. I needed to sing.” She continues: “I agreed to sing during a program that was filmed by the national TV in Mali. On the day it aired, my husband chased me away. I was divorced because of singing.”

Fortunately for her, her now ex-husband was not the only person watching the small television screen that day. And so it came about that more than 1,000 people descended upon Bozola, the quarter of the fishermen where the Touré family lived, to convince her father to allow his daughter to sing. They succeeded. Success soon followed. The famous Malian singer Salif Keita had also taken note of the young singer, and he went on to produce her first album, which became the best-selling album of 1997.

Touré’s passion for art and music did not keep her from continuing her education. In 1988 she received her diploma in technical finance from the School of Industry, Commerce and Administration (l’École d’Industrie, de Commerce et d’Administration, or ECICA) of Bamako. But as this learning did not fully satisfy all her desires, she decided to deepen her musical skills and in enrolled in Mali’s Institut National des Arts, where she received her diploma in music in 1992.

Touré launched the international Voices of Bamako Festival in 2008 to celebrate African women and traditional African arts. The festival program encompasses several domains such as theatre, learning pottery, artisanal work and pirogue races and also includes roundtable discussions on topics addressing women’s issues. During this festival women from Mali and other parts of Africa are honored. Touré has also contributed to developing artistic talent in Mali, where she has trained and assisted several artists for more than a decade.

Fantani Touré believes that political participation is not a combat against men, but adds that men must understand that to be a woman does not mean that one is a “lesser being” or an “underling.” She believes the complementariness between the two fosters the emergence of a home, a society, a nation.
She maintains that one can respect tradition while also respecting the rights of women. She also notes that the way youth are educated in Mali has changed a lot since when she was growing up. Young women today have more freedom and are able to make decisions concerning their future.

Girls’ education and the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) are the battles that Touré has led since the start of her singing career. She makes use of her position as an opinion maker to speak out on these topics in the media and during her concerts. She is, in fact, the first Malian singer to write and perform songs that speak out against the practice of FGM. Her combat has not come without a price; several times she has been attacked and threatened by women who are FGM practitioners.

As has been true for many Malian and African artists, Fantani Touré says she has been greatly influenced throughout her career path by the renowned late Malian singer Ali Farka Touré. She said she prays to heaven that she’ll have even more support to continue being able to promote women’s rights for as long as possible. For her, Africa’s future rests in the hands of women.

by Sandra Zerbo 


  1. do you have xalam - ade from 1979?

    thank you

  2. A shame .... after trying about 10 posts I'm giving up. The packupload links don't even connect to the server (404 not found). Looks like really good stuff here ... but ... the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

    1. new alt link