Music & Culture

LO’JO – In Georgia

Denis Péan Tbilisi Old Town 2012

The best thing about drinking wine from a hollowed out ram’s horn is that you can’t put the thing down. You have to keep holding onto to it otherwise it’ll topple over, and if you’re…

DANYEL WARO – Mongrel and proud

Danyel Waro; La Renuion; Maloya

Like the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Eminem, Danyel Waro has taken a style of music that wasn’t his by birthright and fashioned it into something new. The music in question is maloya.

AFROCUBISM – An old transatlantic love story

AfroCubism: Eliades Ochoa and Bassekou Kouyate

When the record producer Nick Gold traveled to Cuba in the early 1990s he had the genius to perceive the well-spring of love for Cuban music that still flowed through Mali and West Africa and appreciate the strength of their intertwining histories.

MUSIC UNDER FIRE – There’s nothing more revolutionary than joy.

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Yabous Productions, the non-profit Palestinian organisation behind the Jerusalem festival, has been organizing cultural events in Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1995. After the second intifada started in 2001, they were one of the few cultural organisations in Palestine to survive the Israeli crackdown. Their small offices in Arabic East Jerusalem buzz with activity on the day before Awj’s opening concert.

‘BENDA BILILI’ – “They never told us it was impossible…”

Roger Landu from Staff Benda Bilili

What I find extraordinary about a camera, is that you can film people that seem to be so far from you, culturally speaking, and thanks to the emotion that your work expresses, you can relive certain emotions through them and make them appear extremely close. And it’s clear that you need time to do that. If you want to understand a culture, you need to understand the language; you need to live in that culture.

SOCKLO – The genius guitar maker of Kinshasa

Socklo - genuis guitar maker of Kinshasa

Once a guitarist himself, Socklo now makes about 2 to 3 instruments per week, with the help of a couple assistants, in a clapboard shed in the Lembas district of this enormous teeming city. Tools are rudimentary; no workbench, no electric jigsaws, drills or shape cutters, just a heap of hammers, chisels, planes, saws and anvils made from recycled ordnance, all lying at the feet of the kind-faced Socklo while he sits and patiently fashions his artisanal wonders on his lap.

CHEIKH LO – Senegalese soul of many colours

Cheikh Lo - The soul man of Senegalese Baye Fall

It’s this gentle yet luminous spirituality that makes Cheikh Lo’s music so unique, injecting its boundary-busting mix of Cuban, Congolese, Senegalese mbalax and international pop flavours with a tender fire that banishes sentimentality or the empty pop formula. Lo is now 50 years old and philosophical about the time it’s taken him to deliver ‘Lamp Fall’, the ‘difficult’ third album, whose title is synonymous with the Baye Fall’s revered founder.

TAMIKREST – The coalition, the knot, the future

Tamekrist - New Touareg guitar music

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s Tinariwen who created the path,” declares Ousmane Ag Mossa, frizzy-locked leader of Tamikrest, in a pre-emptive strike against a thousand inevitable questions. “But the way I see it, if younger bands don’t come through, then Touareg music will eventually die. They created the path and now it’s up to us to walk down it and create the future.”

JOE SACCO – My hero

Screen shot 2011-01-12 at 20.55.57

My sis, true to form, scored 180 with her Christmas present.  It was Joe Sacco’s latest tome about Palestine:  ‘Footnotes In Gaza’.   Now, very few people out there spur me to become a completist of…

Politics & Society

The Bataclan and the battle for music

Anyone who walks out onto any stage – in Paris, or London, or Madrid, Melbourne, Mumbai and Osaka – is now in the front line of a battle. Music itself is on the front line. Take courage. We’ve got to win. The alternative is too bleak to contemplate: a life without joy, relief, togetherness. A life without music.

The Ouagadougou Accords – Peace in our time?

An accord between the government of Mali and groups representing the Touareg-led rebellion in the north, primarily the MNLA and HCUA, was signed two days ago in Ougadougou at end of several weeks of intense negotiation. Le Monde has a concise and fairly comprehensive report on this possibly historic event. So is this peace in our time?

Northern Mali – Options, what options??!!

The Rubik’s cube-like complexity of Mali’s problems, especially in the north, presents one of the greatest conflict resolution challenges in recent African history. Success relies on solving a short list of pressing problems, each of which look like a challenge fit for gods not men.

GUNS, CIGARETTES AND SALAFI DREAMS – The roots of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

There are facts about Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that are reassuringly hard and verifiable. The organisation exists. It’s run by Algerian Arabs. It’s made a home from home in the north east of Mali, on Tinariwen’s native earth. It earns millions and millions of euros from kidnapping westerners. No one knows exactly how much. Every now and then it chops the head off one of its victims. All in the service of a dream that has become a nightmare for the people of the Sahara