This September, the London African Music Festival (LAMF) will return for its 11th year. It will showcase some of Africa’s greatest acts in various venues throughout the capital including Cargo, Jazz Café, Rich Mix and The Forge, to name but a few.
The festival has put together a healthy line-up of acts old and new, big and small. The legendary Afro-pop band Osibisa will rock The Hideaway on September 13. That same day, two masters of Senegalese music, Malick Pathé Sow & Ba Sissoko, will bring their sublime hoddu (lute) and kora music to The Vortex Jazz Club. The musicians from FELA! The Musical, The Fontanelles, will get audiences at Upstairs at Ritzy going with their Afro-beat funk on September 20, while the soulful Congolese singer Fredy Massamba will perform his debut at the Jazz Café on September 21.
On September 20, the Senegalese hip-hop queen Sister Fa will bring her beats to the Jazz Café. Sister Fa (Fatou Diatta) has not only carved her way in the male-dominated world of hip-hop to become the best-known Senegalese female rapper, but she has become a role model for young women across the world. Her LAMF performance will follow hot on the heels of her Education sans Excision tour, which saw her travel to schools in Guinea and Senegal to raise awareness of, and speak out against, female circumcision. She used painting, workshops, discussion groups and music to help spread her message. “I use the music to talk about it because, in 2013, we still have this practice making victims around the world, especially in Africa,” she explains. “I was just trying to figure out what the young people like more. I try to catch them, to send strong messages and talk about female genital cutting.”
The practice of female circumcision is not the only issue Sister Fa campaigns about. She uses her position to speak up for women in general. “The women work so hard. I wanted to talk for those women who couldn’t really express themselves; who couldn’t say, ‘I’m suffering.’” But traditional Senegalese music doesn’t offer an outlet for protest. “It’s more about the glorified; to talk about our people, their ancestors and how rich they were.” So she turned to hip-hop: “We use hip-hop for education – to say what was not going well, to talk about victimisation.”
“I know that alone I cannot change the whole world with my music,” she confides. But by working with local artists as she tours the world, she is starting a revolution of sorts. “The local artists get involved and then they can really try to talk to their own communities.”