Sister Fa is Senegal's Queen of hip-hop. But getting to the top wasn't an easy road - for a woman to break through in an almost exclusively male field within a male-dominated society, it was a long, hard journey. Struggle breeds compassion, and Sister Fa uses her international album debut "Sarabah - Tales from the Flipside of Paradise" to speak out against the injustices rampant in her native country. Warm, groovy and unmistakably African, her raps, in Wolof, Manding, Jola and French, roll elegantly over beats as well as traditional sounds (kora and djembe), delivering tracks far removed from rap clichés, and more influenced by 80s Old Skool hip-hop than current Western forms of hip-hop.
From the very beginning of her career, Sister Fa has dedicated herself to fight the wide-spread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in her country: "It's an operation that can kill - I've seen dead babies with my own eyes. We need to fight against this practice at all costs and get rid of it forever. But it is quite a complex problem. It's a practice that has been around for some 3000 years - I myself am a victim." It is a major taboo for a Senegalese woman to raise her voice against this tradition, one which usually only foreign celebrities openly condemn, but during her "Education without Mutilation" tour in 2008, funded by Germany's cultural institution, the Goethe Institute, Sister Fa took her fight to the front lines: the Senegalese cities and villages where FGM is most firmly established, hoping to sensitize the population of her homeland.
For Sister Fa hip-hop is about raising awareness and denouncing the wrongs of life: "When you're a musician, you're an ambassador - you are here to defend and help people, not just to make music for money." FGM isn't the only issue she addresses on "Sarabah": there is the real story of a young girl in an arranged marriage ("Bou Souba Si Ngone"), AIDS messages aimed at women ("Life Am"), songs dealing with the plight of Senegalese soldiers ("Soldat") and the hard-working lives of women in Senegal's countryside ("Milyamba"). "Hip Hop Yaw La Fal" is about the power of hip-hop, while in "Selebou Yoon" Sister Fa argues that hip-hop is in harmony with Islam. The latter was featured on the "Many Lessons - Hip Hop Islam West Africa" compilation (Piranha Musik, 2008).
Born in 1982 as Fatou Mandiang Diatta in Senegal's vibrating capital Dakar, Sister Fa recorded her first demo in 2000. Senegal's hip-hop community is huge (apparently there are about 2,000 rap crews in Dakar alone), so it wasn't easy for Sister Fa to make a name for herself, even more so as a female. But her commitment, drive and talent meant she performed at many events, took part in documentaries and released tracks on compilations. Sister Fa's music feeds on Dakar's energy but also has roots in Casamance in Senegal's south, her family's ancestral home. These rich musical and cultural traditions have significantly influenced her artistic output, lending it a uniquely personal note. After the sudden death of her mother, she dropped out of school to dedicate herself fully to music against her father's wishes. Her first solo album was released in Senegal in 2005; that year she also won the prize for Best Newcomer of the Year at the Senegalese Hip-Hop Awards. Since then Sister Fa has become a pillar of the Senegalese hip-hop scene. She has overcome hardships to become the best-known female rapper in Senegal and a role model for many young women.
Sister Fa, now mother to a baby daughter and since 2006 based in Berlin, Germany, is proud that she has paved the way for other Senegalese female rappers to become as popular as her male colleagues Positive Black Soul or Daara J.With "Sarabah", which was recorded in Dakar and produced by Sister Fa and Bob Dynaa, she is ready to spread the word to the world, sharing her tales from the flipside of paradise.