I received the crushing news on Saturday morning that Ramata Diakite had passed on Friday night (October 30, 2009) at the age of 35. I’ll be updating this post as I get further information – my thoughts are kind of scattered, and I’m trying to sort out the best way to get news out and give proper remembrance for this wonderful human.
I first met Ramata in the apartment of good friend Mamadou Sidibe (n’goni player) in Brooklyn. Of course I knew who she was from living in Mali, and hearing her music on the radio. At that point, I was working with Madou and some other Malian artists to book shows, distribute music, and other management activity. But no one quite on the level of an artist like Ramata. Despite knowing this, she asked me a few weeks after meeting me to manage her. I declined, worrying I couldn’t do her career justice.
We kept in touch over the years directly and through Madou. I arranged for her to be part of the “1 Giant Leap” follow-up film “What About Me”. She has a beautiful contribution which has appeared on the “What About Me” TV series in the UK.
One of the creators of 1GL just sent me this, his journal entry from when he met Ramata:
4/12/04 … “Eric[h] gave me Ramata’s Cd and I listened to it in the lift up to my room. It sounded great, very powerful. When she arrived I played her track 29 and she just burst into it straight away and it sounded great. I burnt her a CD and said we’d be at her place in the morning. Off she popped and we did indeed turn up the following day. She lived south of the Niger in a really weird but quite affluent area. Its basically a building site with half of the houses finished and lived in. Her house was lovely, a small courtyard where we recorded the vocal and once again the splendid 70’s styling that is still huge in Mali. The tea here has set me loose from my energy holes and now the coffee is really doing the business. It’ll have to stop you know! Ramata rocked and I had a great vibe with her husband who was totally knocked out when I gave him a set of radio headphones to wear. I noticed between takes that he had his turned to 10 (the way I do) which is VERY loud. We did a second take on the roof which was great with a view across loads of other houses. By the end of the take all the roofs had people watching and about 20 people had gathered outside in the street below and they all burst into applause, it was great….”
The track that came from that recording session is here:
For more about this project, go here and click on “Mali” in the left bar. You’ll see some photos of Ramata from that shoot.
After a while, and a switch in her US label, she again asked me to manage her, and this time I agreed, and became her co-manager with Organic Music as the other management partner.
Over the past couple of years, we worked with her on conceptualizing and recording a more traditional album, which is yet to be released. We had hoped to have her in the US for a tour in 2010. . .
During the past year, she had been battling a chronic illness, and although she appeared to be getting better, she passed in Burkina Faso on Friday, October 30th. She had recently traveled to Burkina. Her body was brought back to Mali and buried there under the direction of the Malian Prime Minister.
Dear friend Markus James has posted a moving remembrance of Ramata over at Afropop Worldwide.
Some of her accomplishments:
* 2006 Tamani d’Or – Best Female Artist of the Year (Meilleure artiste féminine de l’année) – Malian equivalent to the Grammy
* Tamani d’or – Best Video (2005)
* BUMDA Best Artist in Mali (2008) le Bureau Malien des droits d’auteur (Malian Copyright Office)
* Sales of over 100,000 units of album «I Danse»
Some news coverage of her passing:
*Maliweb (in french)
*Maliweb (rough english google translation)