Festival in the Desert

WOMEX 2013 AWARD SPEECH: What the Festival in the Desert did for one dumbfounded tourist…

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November 16, 2013

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,...
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Tisrawt: The epic tale of a theatre company from northern Mali

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May 16, 2013

BOOK EXTRACT: “Tisrawt is a microcosm of Touareg society,” Melissa explains. “That’s to say, it is a group of people who come from many different clans. Some are pro-MNLA. Some are pro Ansar ud-Dine. Some are pro-Mali. Others say that it’s all nonsense. And the aim is to understand each other, to live...
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Music in the red zone

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May 16, 2013

BOOK EXTRACT: Life in the early 1990s was convivial. There was music. Women felt free to come and go. Some people smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. The bonds between those young Touareg, their music and their culture seemed strong and unbreakable. No one quite knows why some senior Touareg figures from the northeast,...
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Guns, cigarettes & Salafi dreams: the roots of AQIM

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January 18, 2013
Guns, cigarettes & Salafi dreams: the roots of AQIM

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...
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SUPER ONZE DE GAO: The takamba champions of the Niger bend.

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April 1, 2011
Super 11 de Gao

They say that takamba has its origins in a neighbourhood of the same name situated on the edge of the small town of Témera, up-river north of Gao, on the road to Bourem. Its driving force is the unmistakable takamba rhythm which pulses on the boom and bip before lurching at the end of...
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ETRAN FINATAWA – The nomad alliance of Niger

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March 10, 2011
Etran Finatawa

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,...
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FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT – 2001, A Saharan Odyssey

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January 10, 2011
The truck just after the hi-jack attempt. (c) Nadia Nid El Mourid 2001

I first heard about the Festival in the Desert from Philippe Brix, the lean and indefatigable manager of the French global troubadours, Lo’Jo. Two years ago, on his return from one of Lo’Jo’s regular trips to Bamako, the capital of Mali, Philippe told me that the group had minted a solid and...
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FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT #2 – Hope through music

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January 10, 2011
Festival Security in 2003.  (c) Kate Morgan.

That’s why the Festivals in the Desert are so important. They give a region previously ravaged by conflict and insecurity the chance to show a peaceful face to the world. They give the chance for the Touareg to prove that far from being bandits, they are a simply another African people...
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