Friday, January 25, 2013

No More Music in Mali?


Even in a world of musical wonders, Mali is a special place-
home to traditions as old as time and some of the world's
most amazing artists. I'm thinking of people like
Ali Farka
Toumani Diabaté and Rokia Traore who weave the
past and the present together into trans-cultural music so
eautiful it can even prop up my flagging faith in humanity.

In Mali, music is part of the fabric of life and to think of
uch a place gone silent staggers the imagination. Like a sky
without birds, like a night with no stars, it's not simply sad,
it's horrific and yet there are people allegedly on a mission
from god to destroy this profound and simple joy...

Mali: no rhythm or reason as militants
declare war on music

The pickup halted in Kidal, the far-flung Malian desert town
that is home to members of the Grammy award-winning
band Tinariwen. Seven AK47-toting militiamen got out and
marched to the family home of a local musician. He wasn't
home, but the message delivered to his sister was chilling:
"If you speak to him, tell him that if he ever shows his face
in this town again, we'll cut off all the fingers he uses to play
his guitar with."

The gang then removed guitars, amplifiers, speakers,
microphones and a drum kit from the house, doused them
with petrol, and set them ablaze. In northern Mali, religious
war has been declared on music.

read the rest at...

"There's a lack of joy. No one is dancing.
There are no parties. Everybody's under
this kind of spell. It's strange.

          a Touareg musician from Kidal

Although it's only recently (thanks to the Al Qaeda brand)
that the situation in Mali has turned up in North American
media, this has been building up for several years.
One of the casualties of this war on life is the Festival
in the Desert. Begun in 2001, this festival has been held
"in exile" near Timbuktu for the last two years and now
has been postponed indefinitely.

Festival au Désert on Facebook


The town of Niafunké just south west of Timbuktu, where
Ali Farka Touré was mayor for many years, is now under
Islamist control. In the south, in Bamako, the combination
of fear and economic pressures means venues are closing
and the silence is growing.


"I'm a Muslim, but Sharia isn't my thing...
if I couldn't go up on stage anymore,
I would cease to exist. And without music,
Mali will cease to exist."

          Rokia Traore

In the midst of such sad and frightening news,
I was heartened to learn that a music festival
was doing something positive!

Glastonbury 2013 lineup: first act announced

The first act to be announced for this summer's Glastonbury
is the Malian singer Rokia Traoré and bands from the
embattled country will open the Pyramid stage each day,
organisers have said. In an intended act of solidarity with
musicians in Mali, where Islamists in the north have banned music

other parts of the festival site, including a revamped dance area,
will also feature a heavy west African presence.

By way of full disclosure. perhaps I should say that in a past life,
I worked to present Ali Farke Toure,
Toumani Diabaté and
Rokia Traore at a festival in Vancouver. Their performances
were quite literally stunning and remain among my most
cherished musical memories.

It's now, as we shiver through the dark days of winter
that festivals across Canada are making their plans
for the summer.

Will Mali be part of those plans?

Will the silence continue to grow?



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