All the musicians I spoke to agreed; Mali without music would be like Egypt without cotton, a bird without wings, a man without a soul. “I’m a Muslim, but Sharia isn’t my thing,” says Rokia Traore, one of Mali’s most famous international stars. “If I couldn’t go up on stage anymore, I would cease to exist. And without music, Mali will cease to exist.”
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.
Last year, the Festival on the Niger had been cancelled at the last minute. French transport planes full of soldiers and hardware had landed in Bamako only two weeks before the festival was due to start. Now peace was back. So was music. The jihadists tried to ban all music except Quranic chanting in the north of Mali. But it just came back like Whack-a-mole. How could it not?
In February 2014, I was invited to The Festival on the Niger in Segou, Mali. This is a selection of some of the photos I took. I also wrote an article which is posted on this site. In a nutshell, those four days on the banks of the old Niger were a blessed chance to renew my love for Mali, with eyes and mind as open as I could make them to the full gamut of joy, pride, frustration and struggle that I saw. Many thanks to Mamou Daffé, Marisa Segala and whole team at the Festival for giving me this unforgettable gift.
In this pacey readable book, Andy Morgan tells the stories of two emblematic instruments, the kora and the Welsh harp, and how they fell into the hands of two great musicians, Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch.