Tinariwen – Lulla : Mali Song of the Week

Lulla? Like Lullaby?

Apparently not, but there’s a thought. The soothing and mesmerising genetics of Mali’s music does lend itself to the ancient subliminal art of convincing children to go to sleep. But with one search through Google and just when it was looking like an original, fantastic, idea it emerged that The Rough Guides series had already done it, and marvellously so. The Rough Guide to African Lullabies “features a whole host of sweet tempered songs from different corners of Africa. The music gently rocks listeners away in to blissful deep dreams” – whether they are therefore genuine, traditional lullabies is unclear. Doubt it. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Mekeba and Ethiopian pianist, composer and nun Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou line up alongside a impressive squad of West Africans and others from across the continent. Angelique Kidjo and Ba Cissoko join Ali Farka Touré, Toumani Diabaté and Bassekou Kouyaté in just another example of how this region of the planet has a special thing going on when it comes to music.

Tinariwen are not really notable by their absence in this compilation album; their explosive guitars and vocals hardly the right mood-setter for afternoon nap time. But who knows what sends a baby of the desert to sleep? After hours of whirling winds and the hive-like drone of the sand dunes themselves perhaps something with a bit more rhythm does just the trick.

Devastating is the news contained in a recent UN study which identifies 250,000 Malian children who will not grow up with either their mother, father, or both; orphaned as a result of the conflict and poverty gripping their country. Aid workers struggling to meet demand at camps near the Mauritania border say they simply do not have enough resources to feed, cloth and shelter these most vulnerable of displaced people. Without an urgent change in fortunes, many of these thousands of children will have nothing but the cold, empty hum of the desert sand to comfort them into an unsettled sleep.

 

Tinariwen – Lulla

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Vieux Farka Touré – Kele Magni : Mali Song of the Week

At the beginning of the year we pointed out that some hold the view that China is on a “collision course” with radical Islamic militants in both the Middle-East and across North Africa. This analysis emerged in the aftermath of the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in November last year where around 170 hostages were taken by the militants and 19 were killed in a mass shooting – among them prominent Chinese officials. Jihadist group Al-Mourabitoun has since claimed responsibility for the assault which it carried out in co-operation with al-Qaeda. Unsure how China would deal with what could be interpreted as a targeted attack on their ambitious plans in Africa, the world speculated on how they would respond. It appears that a slow, shaky collision has begun. China has steadily built up its UN peacekeeping contingent in Mali since the attack and in December passed its first piece of ‘counter-terrorism’ legislation allowing that allows its military to venture overseas on counter-terrorism operations. With violence in Mali spreading, the conflict in the north of the country has now taken the life of its first Chinese peacekeeper and injured five others, two of them seriously. Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for this particular attack.

So why is China getting involved in the first place? Former Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara has spoken publicly about his view that China is both a positive force for peace and development in his home country. It is generally assumed you cannot have one without the other and therefore the argument usually follows that, even when looked at cynically, China has simply positioned its troops in Mali to better secure its investments there. Now, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a very good way to kick-start economic recovery and development so there is every chance that this arrangement can be just as beneficial for Mali as it is for resource-thirsty China. However there are no guarantees that the benefits of any infrastructural, commercial or industrial investments will trickle down to the local population. When social, political and environmental consequences are factored in this kind of arrangement can easily become highly detrimental to the host population.

Surely all foreign investors – not just the Chinese – have any interest in bringing peace to Mali? Well its appears that the powers that be have found a way to make the risk profitable. Not wanting to get into lengthy detail about the ins and outs of investing in Mali, one could assume that the presence of the war in the country would be enough to most people off. Despite this and the proliferation of the conflict throughout Mali over the past year or so a $67 million investment in a gold mine was made this week giving the project in Yanfolia near the Guinea border the green light. Arguably, the conflict is still overwhelmingly centred in the north of the country with the north/south divide more prevalent than ever. It is therefore difficult to ascertain whether the conflict has actually diminished, with the associated investment risks going with it, or that stability and reconstruction are now unnecessary and costly precursors to resource extraction. If the financial benefit for the international community is no longer inhibited by war what interest do they have in pursuing peace?

Of course, the war must stop and Vieux Farka Touré made this statement the focus of his song “Kele Magni” which translates roughly as “the war must stop” or “the war is no good”. Back in The Financial Times documented Vieux’s Queen Elizabeth Hall performance back in September 2013. Then the mood was triumphant; Vieux like many Malians was celebrating the success and assuming the finality of the French military intervention. As David Honigmann reported at the time:

“”War’s not good,” [Vieux Farka Toure] noted, introducing “Kele Magni”; “now they’ve stopped the war.” And appropriately the song, on record contemplative, here bounced with bass and drums in a joyous celebration.”

It has become apparent that the French did indeed stop the nation from collapsing. However despite a UN deployment and free-and-fair elections, three years on from Vieux’s declaration that the war was over violence is recurring and resurgent. Listening to it now the song becomes more a depressive plea; its been long, much too long. The war must end. In an interview in October 2013 Vieux descibes his hometown of Niafunke during the war and how he wrote songs like “Kele Magni” to fulfil his responsibility to “let people know” about what wass happening to their country. The radio interviewer describes the French defeat of the militant forces as a ‘rout‘. Unknowingly at the time this has become an apt portrayal. We now know that al-Qaeda and its patchworker of associate organisations was not a defeated after all, only withdrawn in disorder after sustaining heavy losses. It has been an opportunity for a change of tactics to a more wide-spread guerilla campaign – the one we see today.

So if the war must stop, who will stop it? We must have faith that there are people in Mali that are willing to fight for it. Its musicians always will. But who within all these foreign interventions?  Amongst the Chinese MINUSMA peacekeepers was a soldier named Si Chongchang wounded whilst carring out his mission to bring stabilisation to the people and politics of Mali. Speaking from his hospital bed in Dakhar, it is perhaps right that he should have the last say: “When I recover, I hope to go back to join my comrades and finish what we started.” We must hope that in that mission, he is successful.

 

Vieux Farka Touré – Kele Magni

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Fatoumata Diawara – Bakonoba : Mali Song of the Week

You may have noticed a slightly different look to this week’s Song of the Week. Only slight mind, and you may have noticed it’s a little shorter than usual too. This is because most of the time usually dedicated to producing a jolly bit of prose about music of Mali has been committed to clicking about under the Mali Interest Hub bonnet. The Hub is due a long overdue renovation to make room for all the capability we dreamed it would have.

So while that is all going on it is important not to lose sight of the real reason we are all here – to celebrate a country we love.  On Saturday evening Diawara supported Songhoy Blues at the Roundhouse and joined them for an unforgettable finale rendition of ‘Soubour’. Fatoumata Diawara gets pretty wild on stage. An already strong vocalist explodes into a hair-swinging lioness, thundering back and forth across the stage just to fill a 20 second instrumental. She provided the perfect send-off for this special evening with her infectious energy, her charisma combining well with the general coolness (but sometimes crazy) of Aliou Toure – lead singer of Songhoy Blues.

Diawara issued a clarion call for African women during her set, speaking emotively about the legacies of previous greats like Miriam Makeba and present day heroes like Angelique Kidjo. A symbol of strength and beauty herself, she encouraged everyone in attendance to empower the women of Africa for the sake of the continent and for peace and prosperity worldwide. Later, Aliou Toure would make a similarly impassioned speech, bringing the noise of a 2,000-strong crowd to silence, as he spoke about the need for solidarity with musicians and artists. Citing the massacre at the Bataclan, he reminded the audience that musicians, ever on the pulse of social and political expressions, were increasingly targeted by terrorists – not only in Africa, but now across the globe.

Then came a chance to really do something about it. Roaring “encore!” at Songhoy Blues had felt like enough previously; cheering support for this band that respresents the very essence of artistic defiance in this insecure world. The Music In Exile fund, coordinated by the Index on Censorship and supported wholly by Songhoy Blues, was the nominated charity for the evening. The money raised will fund scholarships for exiled musicians fleeing persecution. The hip-hop artist and political activist Serge Bambara (aka Smockey) is the first, and an undoubtably worthy, beneficiary of the scheme. He will be performing in London in July in an atmosphere that is bound to be as electric as Saturday’s.

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Songhoy Blues – Nick : Mali Song of the Week

This week’s Song of the Week is a tale of two Nicks, inspired by the Songhoy Blues song. The band used the music video to showcase their fun and frolics from Glastonbury Festival last year. Getting a fantastic billing on the Pyramid Stage produced probably their most significant performance to date. The video – directed excellently by Connor Gilhooly with stunning videography – summarises a perfect Glastonbury experience. The long slog down some forgotten A-road, the sun, the drizzle, the standing-around-in-a-patch-of-muddy-gravelly-stuff. Charmingly, it encapsulates the bands personality entirely too. The unchanging fun, the sense of awe, the adventure; as if the world is the entertainer, not the other way around.

The video, somewhat ingeniously, captures one of the most important constants in the imagery of desert blues – travel. Or rather, to put it less romantically, transit. The latter preferred here as it alludes to that often cited monotonous, mesmerising, sometimes soporific, feature of getting from one place to the other as well as some of the more torpid examples of Malian blues. The song title here refers to Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner – the man behind the zest of Songhoy Blues’ break-through track ‘Soubour‘. Now many readers out there will know of another Nick, one whose legend puts him a close second behind Saint Nicolas in the list of ‘All Time Greatest Nicks’. For the last three decades or so primarily through his work with the World Circuit record label Nick Gold has been at the forefront of world music production, specialising in Cuban and West African music. Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabaté, Buena Vista Social Club, Oumou Sangaré all arrived in our eardrums in such exquisite form courtesy of Gold. Indeed you are still far more likely to hear a Malian song about him than any other Nick, with Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabaté having already made notable tributes.

That is not to say that this new Nick on the block is less worthy of praise, only newer, and different. After all, Songhoy Blues did write a song about him. As a musician first and foremost he can go toe-to-toe with Songhoy Blues and understand different things. Though relatively new to Mali music scene, Zinner is well travelled and has played with a whole host of different musicians. In an insightful interview Zinner comes across as characteristically relaxed. Like the band, he seems impregnable; unfazed by the hype that surrounds Africa Express and Songhoy Blues, explaining things as how they are and in so doing makes them so much more real. So much more astonishing.

Getting ever better, Songhoy Blues stand on the cusp of another career defining performance. Without Glastonbury’s ‘passing trade’ they have taken on full responsibility of filling the 2000-capacity Roundhouse in north London this Saturday (21st). They however do have some help from some friends in the form of the incredible Fatoumata Diawara, Blick Bassy, United Vibrations and a DJ set from Dave Okumu (The Invisible). Tickets are still on sale, allegedly, so before you act on the presumption that the only way into this gig would be smuggled within a calabash, perhaps check here first: http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2016/songhoy-blues/. See you there.

 

Songhoy Blues – Nick

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Cheb Mami, Passi, Youssou N’Dour, Papa Wemba, Femi Kuti & Rokia Traore – Mali 2002 : Mali Song of the Week

There are moments in history where football and music have sat perfectly together. An inseparable double-act able of catapulting human emotions to places not thought possible. Music is sometimes the only means by which we can comprehend those moments, and the best aid we have to relive them. Thanks to the BBC’s coverage of France 98 rarely can a hint of Garbiel Faure’s ‘Pavane’ go by without daydreams of a plucky Michael Owen or the majesty of Zinedine Zidane. In the last week, a splendid recreation of one of these special moments was orchestrated by Leicester City’s Italian manager Claudio Renieri. The Foxes’ magical Premier League triumph has been made all the more glorious when Andrea Bocelli stepped out to put on a ‘spine-tingling‘ rendition of Nessun Dorma at the King Power Stadium on Sunday, making the official presentation of their title achievement all the more globally and historically resonant. The song is so strongly associated with the sensational Luciano Pavarotti and the romance of Italia 90 it provided the perfect catalyst for further dreaming about a reawakening of football, a collective nostalgia groping for a sign of those ‘better days’ resigned to ones childhood, now lost in the commercial mist of modern football. The dreams of glory had been steadily ground away. Abandoned after so many humiliations. At best they were merely delusions, surely? Thought forever lost to a grotesque contemporary agenda of merchandising, agent fees, and headlines about TV rights, that fledgling optimism has been plucked out like a dusty cassette full of treasured songs.

The 23rd African Cup of Nations of 2002 was held in Mali. In a continent besotted by football West Africa is its powerhouse, contributing the vast majority of winners and participants of previous tournaments. Cameroon, Africa’s most successful international team, won the tournament of 2002, with a good Malian side finishing 4th in its first tournament since 1994. After 2002, Mali’s national side picked up another 4th place finish and later back-to-back bronze medals in 2012-13. With a pair of joint top scorers in the last decade also, it represents an good era of Malian football. But, the natural order was restored, as it all came crashing down in the cruellest of ways in the tournament of 2015. Mali was drawn into a group of death. Cameroon, Guinea and Ivory Coast would battle with Les Aigles in Equatorial Guinea for two precious tickets to the knock-out stages. The end of a tense and frankly ridiculous week in Group D saw five of the six games end as 1 – 1 draws, with Cameroon unexpectedly slumping to the bottom of the group following a 1 – 0 defeat to Ivory Coast, sending Les Éléphants through top. So suddenly it was down to Guinea and Mali for the 2nd and final spot. Level on points, equal on their ‘head-to-head’ records, the same goals scored and same goals conceded. At every turn the teams were statistically inseparable, but someone had to go home. It boiled down to a drawing of lots, with Guinea progressing on nothing more than luck. Imagine the pandemonium if England were booted out of a World Cup after losing a coin-toss to Germany…

Of course, every international tournament needs a song, and the cobbled together unofficial, impulsive tunes always turn out to be much more entertaining than any of the official dross that usually rolled out. So here comes “Mali 2002” a fine specimen of multi-nation, multi-genred thumping, feel-good, comfortably-tacky AfroPop. A beautiful collaborative mess of six artists from a selection of the 2002 tournament’s competing countries. Attributed through YouTube to Algerian singer-songwriter Cheb Mami, the song also has vocals from Mali’s Rokia Traore, Nigerian Afrobeat hero Femi Kuti, Senegalese all-rounder Youssou N’Dour (also a successful actor, businessman and politician) and a set of Congolese: the hip-hop artist Passi and the late, great Papa Wemba, who sadly passed away in April this year. The song summarises all that is great about these peaceful,coming-togethers of different peoples – the vibrancy, the interaction of cultures of ideas, the crazy fun; all facilitated by the passions and marvels of football.

Rokia Traore was the only woman in this pan-African line up. As Mali’s national team enters a period of transition it can look to its youth for those future dreams, that allusive yet recycling optimism. For the first time it appears it can also look to its women. Earlier this month it was announced that Mali would soon be getting its first national women’s football league comprised of a respectable 12 teams. With the popularity, and subsequent wealth, of women’s football growing steadily world-wide, Mali’s women see this as an opportunity to build successful careers and – perhaps one day – proudly carry the hopes of a nation into the prestige and glamour of an international tournament.

And as Mali steps into this new uncharted world, once again the perpetual wisdom of Nessun Dorma will help us transform this into an age of optimism if we but listen. The song, famous for its steady, soaring procession to the most thundering of climaxes summarises the spirit of Leicester City’s story and that of any perennial underdog; it forces us to defy what has come before and dream:

 

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All’alba vincerò!
Vincerò! Vincerò!

Vanish, o night!
Fade, you stars!
Fade, you stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!

 

 

Cheb Mami, Passi, Youssou N’Dour, Papa Wemba, Femi Kuti & Rokia Traore – Mali 2002

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Amadou & Mariam – Se Te Djon Ye : Mali Song of the Week

 ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ starts like a long lost Metallica song. A silky guitar running free, in a distinctive steady and folksy manner. Then that voice appears – not Metallica then. Or at least not just Metallica. Not entirely prepared to abandon my instinct, I consider that this is perhaps a new classic; a collaboration between a previously unknown African artist and the US heavy metal legends? Nope. Its Amadou & Mariam from start to finish. If I was ever surprised I should be equally ashamed.

Like the previous Amadou & Mariam song to make it onto the Hub – ‘Dougou Badia’ – this is may be another “chuffing great masterstroke of genre-less genre mixing“. But  ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ is not genre-less (whatever that means). It is in fact a hint of where Amadou & Mariam began their on their journey to international acclaim. Having first released ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ in 1996 (some 17 years before ‘Dougou Badia’) its is an example of the couple’s very earliest commercial work; coming from a group of songs created and released on audio cassette solely for a domestic and African audience. The lead up to and “international break-through” success with the album Sou Ni Tilé in 1999 encouraged them to rediscover some of their earlier work. ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ became the title track on an album with a whole range of intriguing clues to the duo’s earliest influences and harks to a period of their artistry which was not created with a global audience immediately in mind.

Perhaps the influence of Metallica and other American and European rock bands did come in to play in these early days. But the 1990s was an age of learning for the Western world too. A well-told story is the one of the ‘discovery’ of Ali Farka Toure in 1993/94. More accurately: his arrival on the world music scene forced a realisation in the US that blues wasn’t entirely their invention, only a style borrowed and redeveloped. And so once again here, Amadou & Mariam’s piece points to the complex world of flowing and interconnected musical expansion which is so evident and enjoyed in the music of this west African country.

 

 

Amadou & Mariam – Se Te Djon Ye 

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Moussa Diallo – Koulékan : Mali Song of the Week

The African Elephant is staggering towards extinction. In the time it will take you to read this article and listen to the excellence of Moussa Diallo and his band an African Elephant would have been killed. Mali has a very special kind of desert elephant which roams, in dwindling numbers, around the central/northern region between Timbuktu and Gao. These elephants are not thought to be a subspecies in their own right, but rather a group of the majestic creatures that have learned to survive in this particularly harsh climate and are the northern-most herds of Africa. They migrate great distances, covering over 370 miles of this sparse land annually, sometimes taking them into Burkina Faso and Niger, in an anti-clockwise route tracing temporary and permanent waterholes (check out this cool interactive map from National Geographic). Once widespread across the deserts of Africa, today the only other place you can find desert elephants is Namibia. In Mali there are only 300 left. This number is coming down rapidly, overwhelmingly as a result of poaching – the means by which 80 of these elephants lost their lives in 2015 alone. It doesn’t take much of a mathematician to figure that it will not be many years before these animals will disappear forever.

Malians have not stood by and watched this happen, but there is little they can do. In 2008 locals tried their best to nurse the herds through drought and in another drought in the 1980s the government responded by trucking in water. Poaching, however, it the biggest threat and to combat this you need a strong police and military presence. Sadly, Mali’s military is a little tied up at present and even if the resources were available, as they are more readily in South Africa, the criminals are still likely to slip away and carry on regardless in this vast, open land. Perhaps Mali could consider enlisting the support of a foreign ally, as will happen when the British Army fly in to partner up with the National Parks Agency of Gabon.

So how to celebrate the desert elephant while it’s still around? Well, to try and lighten the mood we’ve turned to bassist Moussa Diallo. The low, thumping tones suits the movements of the fantastic beasts well. For further metaphorical musical mirroring we can go one better; one of Diallo’s most successful musical collaborations of his career was with internationally-acclaimed Danish trumpet player Palle Mikkelborg as part of “The Kinkéliba Project” in July 2000. With many Malian musicians gravitating towards Cuban/Latin influences to guide their careers, it is refreshing to see a Malian with the ability to compose, arrange and bring together many other West African and European artists opt for a more jazz-fusion focus to his work; bringing together Mali – the land of his father – and Denmark – the land of his mother. It is a coming together of which this week’s Song of the Week is a fabulous and triumphant example.

 

Moussa Diallo – Koulékan

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Ali Farka Toure – Tulumba : Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure songs are never short of emotion. ‘Tulumba’ announces itself triumphantly which somewhat betrays the rest of the song. It continues in at the pace of a melancholic shanty, not despairing but grieving.

And there is much to grieve over in the last week of Malian life. On April 14th the great and widely celebrated Malian photographer Malick Sidibé passed away in Bamako aged 80. In a delightful tribute, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, International Correspondent with NPR, described the effect Sidibé’s death has had on the country through the words of Mali’s culture minister, N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo. He was undoubtedly a “national treasure” whose loss the entire country is mourning.

The war in the north of Mali has seen a bloody week. Civilians, soldiers and humanitarians all falling victim to the enduring instability, growing distrust and angst at a wretched situation of which no one appears to have the strength to control. In that void violence thrives. The International Committee of the Red Cross announced on Monday that for a month three of its aid workers on assignment in deep in the north in Abeibara had been missing. Only a week before this announcement, three French soldiers had been killed in a landmine blast during a routine drive from Gao with President Hollande expressing “deep sadness” upon hearing the news. And perhaps most troubling of all is the situation in Kidal. Reports from Mali on April 19th describe how a street protest formed to demonstrate against arrests made by French and UN forces which they allege were arbitrary and undermined peace efforts. The situation turned violent resulting in 4 deaths, 7 injuries – 2 seriously – a trashed airport, and shots fired, reportedly by UN soldiers as much as anyone else.

In these desperate times we must consider the wisdom of Toure and Sidibé – these two late, great Malians – and not slip so easily into sorrow and defeat. Artists leave us with gifts, new tools to understand and interpret the world. In 2008, Sidibé told The Daily Telegraph “For me, photography is all about youth…It’s about a happy world full of joy, not some kid crying on a street corner or a sick person.” Writing about the motivation to create the album Niafunké (named after his beloved home town) from which ‘Tulumba’ hails, Ali Farka Toure explained that:

“My music is about where I come from and our way of life and it is full of important messages for Africans. In the West perhaps this music is just entertainment and I don’t expect people to understand. But I hope some might take the time to listen and learn.”

So whilst we can rejoice in the magic that these artists produce, we must also consider their approach and look deeper. We must allow ourselves to be challenged by what is being presented to us. This may appear difficult without access to context or language and perhaps as a Westerner it can never be fully understood. But this spectacular photography and music is unquestionably stirring. It makes an impression on us. Let’s gather that feeling up and at the very least we can try and understand it, unpick it, respond to it and see what we learn from there. Perhaps there is a way through.

 

 

Ali Farka Toure – Tulumba

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Rokia Traoré – Tu Voles : Mali Song of the Week

“Tu Voles”/”You fly” sings Rokia in this glorious opener to her 2016 album Né So. Where the album title itself means ‘home‘ this week’s Song means the opposite. “Home” is intended as “an invitation to think about the idea of ‘home'” and the privilege that comes with having one, whereas “Tu Voles” is about striving and escapism.

You fly, from every hurt, you release yourself, and you swim through the air, you fly…

Delving deeper; are the songs in fact on a similar theme? In both Traore encourages us to consider the plight of those that have no home and sings to us and imposes a character on us of a person so ill at ease, frightened, intimidated, troubled they resort to metaphor; they achieve that universal, impossible dream of humankind through force of will alone. This in a way is Traore’s trademark – using the beauty and vulnerability of “her raspy, quavering voice” to encourage empathy. Mark Hudson of The Telegraph notes that this must be a reflection of “the gravity” of her recent experience – and that of her homeland – noting that the album “is subdued, moody, even dark at times.” He continues;

“Since her last album, 2013’s buoyant and optimistic Beautiful Africa, she’s seen her homeland torn apart by a brutal civil war, including the recent Islamist atrocity in the capital Bamako, and has been beset by a more general sense of “things falling apart”.”

In her own way, Traoré has taken flight herself, with her artistry safely stowed in the overhead compartment. She like so many of Mali’s musicians has become a self-appointed ambassador for her country constantly flying worldwide to tell the rest of us what Mali is all about. To encourage the celebration of its beauty and understanding of its struggles. After taking up a very prestigious place on the Cannes Film Festival Main Jury last year, Traoré will be taking to the greatest stage of all this summer after being confirmed in the Glastonbury line-up – the festival continuing its marvellous support of Mali’s musicians. Malian’s have also been confirmed at a range of other festivals for example, Songhoy Blues have just completed a Tour in Australia and New Zealand, taking in those respective countries’s WOMAD festival. Back in the UK, WOMAD has yet to grace the shores of this soggy island in 2016, the festival scheduled for 28th-31st July. There French fiddle will meet Malian kora, percussion and vocals in the form of the exciting collaborative new-comers N’Diale.

So with the importance of her message evident here’s to hoping that Rokia is rewarded with one of the weekend’s precious “sunset slots” where the magic of the festival is unveiled in its entirety; liquid gold streaming around the summit of Glastonbury Tor, streaming down its sides, an image that defines the majesty of the place. Tens of thousands in a sun-soak crowd, basking in the immediacy of that fading moment before the giver of all life creeps away to brighten up a new day elsewhere on Earth.

Well, it’s that or it’ll be lashing it down with rain.

 

 

Rokia Traoré – Tu Voles

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Issa Bagayogo – Saye Mogo Bana : Mali Song of the Week

Previously, Issa Bagayogo has been applauded primarily for his wizardry in the use of electronic instruments – drum machines, samplers – to create a distinctive and exceptional “groove” by combining them with the more conventional sounds of Mali. This week’s Song has been plucked out to try and emphasise another string to his bow. ‘Saye Mogo Bana’ is the opening track on a very good afro-electro-hip-hop compilation album called African GrooveWhat dear Issa Bagayogo is not often credited with is his amazing voice. Sometimes overshadowed by technical aptitude and compelling compositions, Bagayogo should also be recognised for contributing the “soulful vocals” as well as the “bluesy ngoni” to his music, as pointed to in the album’s pull-out. His voice is smooth and easy on the ear, and sits neatly on top of the chilled rhythms he has orchestrated below.

 

Issa Bagayogo – Saye Mogo Bana

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Where we meet Mali

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