Sister Fa at Flyover Portobello, September 20

This review originally appeared in Songlines #96 (Nov/Dec 2013) p102.

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Sister Fa has broken through the testosterone barriers in the male-dominated arena of urban African music to become one of Senegal’s biggest female hip-hop stars. And this gig was all about being a woman in a man’s world.

At the intimate venue, the first half of the evening was co-hosted by the Orchid Project, a charity that aims to end female genital cutting (FGC) and Girls, Girls, Girls!, who host women-inspired events to support the Orchid Project. There were musical performances by Samantha Lindo and Eliza Shaddad; some powerful spoken word by Sabrina Mahfouz and a brief presentation by the Orchid Project about their work and the startling facts about FGC. Three million women and girls are at risk of being cut every year and an estimated 140 million women currently live with the consequences.

After that sobering presentation, Sister Fa (aka Fatou Diatta) took to the stage and proceeded to get the tiny crowd – the event was sadly under-attended – grooving. She tried to get the modest crowd to sing along with her, while laughing, “that’s pathetic, but it’s the way it is.” She seemed to enjoy poking fun at both the audience and her own band of Germans – “these Germans, always so serious and business-like” – who continuously kept interrupting her before she could introduce each piece, eventually saying “I should have been a comedian, no?”

Even with its serious undertone and woefully small crowd, the evening was enjoyable and inspiring.

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