Ibrahim battles through the show, smiling only once. His grave immobile presence is like a challenge to the hip bubbling New York crowd. To do what? To imagine a simplicity and a silence that their city will never know. It almost feels as if, for just a few minutes, Ibrahim’s challenge has been accepted, and endless silence of the desert has descended on us all.
In 2011 I was sent to New York to write a feature on Tinariwen for the Observer. It was one of the hottest summers in decades – wet hot, rather than dry hot. It was a time of extremes for everyone. Here are some photos I took. My feature ‘TINARIWEN – Guitar poets in Nueva York’ is posted on this site.
Ladies, gentlemen and fellow Womexicans… On the third of January this year, Ansar Eddine, one of the three armed Salafist groups who ruled over the northern two-thirds of Mali and imposed a brutal form of shari’a law on its people, issued what they called their ‘political platform’. In many ways it’s an extraordinary document, of…
It was a small consolation, but one of the few positives to come out of the occupation of the northern two-thirds of Mali by armed jihadist groups in 2012 was the informed analysis of Andy Morgan. At the height of the crisis, Morgan seemed ubiquitous in the western media – on radio, television and in…
My new book MUSIC, CULTURE & CONFLICT IN MALI takes an in-depth look at the crisis that overtook Mali in January 2012 and lead to a ten-month occupation of the northern two-thirds of the country by armed jihadi groups. The book examines the roots of those tumultuous events and their ef- fect on the music and culture of the country. There are chapters on music under occupation in the north, the music scene in Bamako, the destruction of mausoleums in the north, the fate of Mali’s precious manuscripts, Mali’s film and theatre industries and the response to the crisis from writers, poets, journalists, intellectuals and film-makers.
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.
A nation or people rarely if ever think as one. In the case of the Touareg, difference and disharmony is exacerbated by their vast desert habitat and dispersed nomadic lifestyle, both of which tend to place allegiance to blood and tribe above allegiance to nation or ideology and militate against collective thought or action. This is an attempt to analyze the various current of political thought in the Touareg community of northern Mali.
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
In terms of music and culture, the Sahara is like an inland sea, where the sounds, tastes and colours of peripheral ‘port’ cities like Marrakesh, Sijilmassa, Timbuktu, Agadez, Ghardaia, In Salah, Ghat, Ghadames, Tunis, Tripoli, Siwa, Cairo, Walata, Chinguetti, Djenné and Kano have mingled for centuries.
I’ve been busy translating the lyrics for the forthcoming album by Tamikrest, the band from north eastern Mali lead by the talented Ousmane Ag Moussa. If you don’t know them already check out their existing album ‘Adagh’. One thing I always suspected but now know for sure is that Ousmane is a really excellent poet.…