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.
“Africa needs to speak out right now,” says Ousco calmly over a crackling phone line from Bamako. “Africa must stop crying.” His words are a neat little summary of what African rap is all about: No mincing words or metaphors. No ancient musical traditions that cosy up to power. No decadent ghetto fabulous fantasies. None of that.
The word ‘nomad’ might make us dream about freedom, but in the southern Sahara it actually describes a man locked in a pitiless and epic struggle against drought, locusts and oblivion. The scrubland of the Azawak, an immense and table-flat plain in the northwestern corner of Niger, is home to two nomadic peoples, the Touareg and the Woodabé, who have been intimate with this daily existential grind for centuries.
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.