Mali Rebellion

MUSIC AND JIHAD IN MALI – “Mali without music is an impossibility”

A mujahid in northern Mali.

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.”

TINARIWEN – Guitar poets in Nueva York

Ibrahim ag Alhabib on stage at the Highline Ballroom, New York, July 2011. (c) Andy Morgan

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.

MALI RAP – Talking rhymes with Presidents and Putschistas

Sidiki Diabate and Iba One at the Diabaté house in 'Ntomikorobougou

  “Don’t be surprised if it explodes one day!” When I met Mylmo I knew nothing about him except that he was rapper who was performing on the main stage of the Festival on the Niger that very night. I interviewed him in an empty restaurant on the banks of the great river – most…

SIDI TOURE – Easy to listen to and easy to love…

Sidi Toure (Courtesy of Thrill Jockey)

When he was a child, Sidi Toure was told to go and hunt for bats in the Tomb of the Askia. On a good day, he and his harum scarum comrades could bring back ten or more, which made a tidy feast for the family. The monument wasn’t far from his home in the Sané…

SEYDOU CISSÉ of GANDA IZO – “We should have followed the MNLA from the start”

Here’s an amazing news story: http://maliactu.net/mediation-dans-la-crise-malienne-nous-preferons-ouaga-a-alger-dixit-moussa-ag-attaher/ On February 9th last, the MNLA and the Ganda Izo held a joint press conference in Ouagadougou and issued a joint statement announcing a future collaboration between the two movements. The two groups also expressed strong support for Burkina Faso’s mediation in northern Mali and denounced any attempts by…

Does the Touareg question have an answer?

Touareg boy watching Camel Race, Tin Essako, Jan 2001

A few years ago, on a beautifully calm Saharan evening, I was drinking tea with an old Touareg musician in a garden near Tessalit in the far north east of Mali, a place that has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The musician’s work was gaining popularity throughout Europe and North…

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…

The Ouagadougou Accords – Peace in our time?

An accord between the government of Mali and groups representing the Touareg-led rebellion in the north, primarily the MNLA and HCUA, was signed two days ago in Ougadougou at end of several weeks of intense negotiation. Le Monde has a concise and fairly comprehensive report on this possibly historic event. So is this peace in our time?

NEW BOOK – Music, Culture & Conflict in Mali

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.