North Africa / Maghreb

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.

What does Morocco want from Mali?

The big story to emerge from the inauguration of Mali’s new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which took place in Bamako’s 26 Mars stadium on September 19th, was the arrival of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, for the celebrations with a delegation of 300 dignitaries in tow. So stark and brash was the nature of this…

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

Algeria plays a master’s game in northern Mali

A few days ago, the pro-Azawad website Toumast Press reported that Algerian army personnel were in Gao training fighters belonging to Ansar ud-Dine and MUJAO,  the Islamist militia who recently drove the Touareg separatist  MNLA from the city.  They also reported that the Algerians have been sending heavy weaponry to the city under the guise…

GADDAFI AND THE TOUAREG – Love, hate and petro-dollars


Gaddafi has been buying the affections and fighting skills of the nomadic tribes of the Sahara for a long time. Despite widespread suspicion that Gaddafi only ever helped the Touareg to further his own territorial schemes, many Touareg fear the consequences of his fall from power.

CHEIKHA REMITTI – Grand Dame of Algeria’s school of hard knocks!

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Remitti is most emphatically still here, well past her eightieth birthday, sharp, defiant, halogenically lucid, still giving her audiences the proverbial cru-cut with her freight-train baritone holler and still raising the temperature with her shimmying shoulders and pulsating midriff. Moreover Remitti really does seem to have overtaken and outlived much of the younger generation that she originally spawned. Her brand new album ‘N’ta Goudami’, is creatively more ambitious and successful than 95% of the rai being recorded by singers one third her age. It seems like Remitti has trounced the rai youth at their own game.

MATOUB LOUNES – A lifetime dancing with death

Matoub Lounes

“Silence is death and yet if you speak you die.  If you keep quiet you die.  So then speak and die.” Tahar Djaout “I want to speak and I don’t want to die” Matoub Lounès A grave between an olive and a cherry tree Death finally caught up with him on the lonely bend of…