Fatoumata Diawara is the main contributor to what is now called the Wassoulou sound, one of the most popular West African music styles. The Wassoulou Empire, also known as the Mandinka Empire, spans what is now southwestern Mali and upper Guinea.
While agriculture and cattle are the mainstay of Wassoulou’s economy, its culture—particularly its music, which is performed primarily by women—is bringing fame to this ancient land.
To illuminate the beauty and power of the songs and expressions of Fatoumata Diawara, Georges Collinet will lead us on a journey in time and space around the lore of the Wassoulou Empire.
This event is part of Strathmore’s Windows series of performances and accompanying programs. Learn more
Georges Collinet grew up in Bityé, a small village in the Equatorial forest of Cameroon. His father took him to France at a young age. From there, the adventurous young man ventured to New York, then landed in Washington, DC, where he started the two-hour breakfast show Bonjour l’Afrique on the Voice of America. For over 45 years, Collinet blasted millions of African listeners with soul, funk, rock, African, and Latin music during his daily French and English shows. Maxi Voum Voum, as he was called, skyrocketed to fame as one of the continent’s most popular radio personalities averaging over 100 million listeners daily.
While running his radio show, Collinet built a varied career as a recording artist, producer, filmmaker, TV producer, and educator. During a 10-year stay in France, he became head of Radio Luxembourg in Avoriaz, a lush ski resort in the Alps, and a star presenter on France Inter, the French national radio station. Collinet also created the Maracas d’Or to reward talented African Musicians and Soul Music, the first French magazine to promote African music.
Upon his return to the US, he became a communications consultant for various NGOs and international organizations, including the World Bank. During that time, he produced many documentaries about Africa and Madagascar, and trained journalists in several African countries and India.
In 1988, he teamed up with Sean Barlow to launch Afropop, the first showcase radio program in the US media devoted to African music and culture. Hosted by Collinet, Afropop was an instant hit, airing on more than 200 public radio stations across the country as well as on the BBC. After 30 years on air, Collinet and Afropop were awarded the prestigious Peabody Award during a special ceremony at the Ford Foundation in New York City.
Collinet’s exuberance on the show opened doors for countless music fans, radio hosts, journalists, presenters, educators, and African musicians.