All posts by Sam Garbett

A message from our friends at World Circuit Records: Inna Baba Coulibaly with ALI FARKA TOURÉ – “Sahel”

World Circuit Records announce a special Record Store Day release

Have a listen ahead of time with this exclusive Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/world-circuit-records/sets/inna-baba-coulibaly-with-ali-farka-toure-sahel/s-EuolL

Hello there! It’s been a while!

We’ve just been sent a special message from our friends over at World Circuit Records and we thought there’d be quite a few of you who would be interested in hearing what they’ve been up to. Rare Malian music alert! That got your attention. Now read on….

You may know World Circuit thanks to their legendary status after being the record label that brought us delights such as Oumou Sangare, Bueno Vista Social Club and – of course – Ali Farka Toure and his grammy award winning album with Ry Cooder Talking Timbuktu. To celebrate Record Store Day (22nd April 2017) World Circuit are  releasing a 10 inch vinyl EP of classic tracks by Inna Baba Coulibaly, the legendary Fula singer. The songs were recorded over forty years ago at the studios of Radio Mali in Bamako and feature that great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure. They’ve seldom been heard outside Mali…until now!

The story of Inna Baba Couilbaly

“Music is my passion…It’s my destiny…Young musicians must respect our music, and not destroy our tradition”

The rest of their press release reads as follows:

“Inna Baba Coulibaly was born near the town of Dilly, close to the border between Mali and Mauritania. The region is known for its herds of long-horned zebu cattle and its numerous holy sites dedicated to Sufi saints who are venerated for their piety, wisdom and tolerance.

Born into the noble Coulibaly clan, Inna Baba claims she inherited her love of singing from her mother, Anna Coulibaly. But the Fula consider singing to be unseemly for a woman of noble birth, and Anna Coulibaly was the target of much criticism, even magical spells. She did everything she could to persuade her daughter not to sing, reminding her of the old belief that young girls who sang were destined to live short lives. But she couldn’t stop Inna Baba, who delighted in stealing off with her friends after sunset to sing under the light of the desert moon.

After Inna Baba was married at the age of 14, her husband’s family managed to silence her for a while. But a saviour arrived in the unlikely figure of the commandant of Dilly, who arrived in her village one day looking for singers and musicians to appear at some prestigious Independence Day celebration. He demanded to hear the local talent and threatened dire consequences if no one came forward. Finally the village relented and four of their best musicians were chosen, including Inna Baba, who won first prize at the festival. After relocating to the capital Bamako in the late 1960s with her husband, she began to perform regularly, winning further accolades in the country’s famous Biennale competitions with her traditional Fula, Bamana and Soninke songs.”

Enter: Ali Farka Toure 

“This EP is the result of those recordings – a priceless snapshot of three Malian legends in their prime”

“Inna Baba was a regular visitor to the Bamako home of Amadou Djeli Ba, a fellow native of Dilly and master of the ngoni or traditional lute. It was there that she met Ali Farka Toure who was already famous thanks to his regular broadcasts on Radio Mali. It took her some time to overcome her shyness and come out from behind the door where she would hide, singing the songs softly to herself while the two great musicians played together. After a while, Ali Farka Toure suggested they all go to the Radio Mali studio and record a few songs. This EP is the result of those recordings – a priceless snapshot of three Malian legends in their prime.

Following these recordings, Inna Baba Coulibaly travelled back to Dilly to perform in front of President Moussa Traore and a delegation of high-ranking officials. The visit was part of a national tour that the Malian dictator undertook to try and bind his vast and disparate nation more closely together. At every stop on the way, the best local musicians and singers were chosen to represent their town and their region. Inna Baba was the choice of Sidi Modibo Kané, the revered marabout or holy man of Dilly. After an unforgettable performance her fame, already ample following the success of her Radio Mali recordings, continued to grow.

In the years that followed, Inna Baba joined the Franco-Malian group Manden Foly and toured throughout Mali, France, and the rest of the world, appearing on Malian and French national TV on numerous occasions. Despite her fame and the constant invitations to appear at weddings, celebrations, festivals and concerts, she tries to spend as much at as possible back home in Dilly, to keep the flame of her ancestral Fula culture and her love of her Sahelian home, burning bright.

“Music is my passion,” she says, in a wonderful video made by the Mali-based NGO Instruments4Africa, “It’s my destiny…Young musicians must respect our music, and not destroy our tradition.”

Four very special songs 

The four songs on the EP paint a vivid picture of life on the sahel or ‘shore’ of the great Sahara desert.  ‘Sahal’ is a love song to the young men who venture out into the wilderness with their great herds of cattle; it expresses the joy and celebration sparked by their return, the gossip and excitement too as those young men look for a young bride among the prettiest girls in the village.  “He who doesn’t have cows – I don’t extol him, or speak to him,” warns the song.

In‘Ndalen Koten’ (‘Let’s Go’), Ali Farka Toure salutes various people in his life, people he esteems and feels gratitude towards, such as Bela Boré, who first introduced Ali Farka to Malian national radio.

‘Allah Holam’ (‘May God Show Me’) is a paean to Sidi Modibo Kané, the great marabout of Dilly. Inna Baba calls on the great religious heroes of the Fula people – Sékou Oumarou and Sékou Amadou – to implore God to show her Sidi Modibo, so that he may bless her. The song is a passionate illustration of the importance of those Sufi saints in the lives of ordinary Malians.

Finally, ’Zaglia’ (‘Pilgrimage’) is a celebration of pilgrimage, one of the duties or pillars of Islam. The song depicts the bustling devotion of the day when pilgrims leave for Dilly to venerate the saint, with its celebrations, its readings of the koran, its feasting and goat racing. “When God has chosen you, be proud of it,” goes the song, “Pilgrimage above all else.”

 For more information please contact: press@worldcircuit.co.uk

Have a listen ahead of time with this exclusive Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/world-circuit-records/sets/inna-baba-coulibaly-with-ali-farka-toure-sahel/s-EuolL

Photo Credit: World Circuit Records

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.

Master Soumi – Explique Ton Islam : Mali Song of the Month

We’ve gone for a load-saving re-brand. As of the end of this month, and in the final week of each one which will follow, the Song of The Week will become a once-monthly feature; replaced by the Song of the Month. Having run every week for just over three years it has explored all manner of topics in over 140 unique entries. This month, in a sad symbol of reality, focuses on an issue that would be topical in any week for several months. Three days after the 7-month State of Emergency was finally declared over Islamist militants killed 17 Malian soldiers in an attack by Ansar Dine on an army base in Nampala – bang in the middle of the country.

Whilst viewing the trailer for the film Mali Blues – a German film about “about the unifying Power of Music” – I discovered another new artist that has began his journey in composing the thoughts and voices of ordinary Malians. Sitting alongside household names like Fatoumata Diawara and Bassekou Kouyate on the film’s blurb is a young hip-hop rapper by the name Master Soumi (or often “Soumy”). This week’s song of the week shows the best of his style, the forthrightness, stripped-down and critical perspectives, and that resolute vision so effectively captured in hip-hop. Poignantly, the song’s title and chorus focus on a recurring message in Malian art and literature. In this article, the militants that killed 17 soldiers, and injured 35 more, are prefixed with ‘Islamist’. A debate rages across the world as to whether it is appropriate to refer to ISIL/Daesh as an Islamic organisationor not – with controversy plaguing public figures on both sides of the discussion. Master Soumi takes a different approach. Acknowledging that many of these militant organisations refer to themselves as Islamic, he pins the argument back on them:

Kalashnikovs and bombs;
Explain your Islam!
100 lashes, immediate punishment;
Explain your Islam!

The use of the word “your” is crucial. It detracts from the religion as a motivation for their acts and restores a sense of individual choice, agency and responsibility. What becomes abhorrent is not the teachings, but the interpretations. The imagery of modern weaponry and outdated notions of justice emphasises the ridiculousness and absurdity of their practice and further distances them from the mainstream.

“Explique Ton Islam!” is also a feverously catchy statement. Hats of to ‘Master’ Soumi.

Master Soumi – Explique Ton Islam

Photo Credit: DroitLibre.tv

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.

Prudential Ride London 100 – donate for Mali!

As many of you will be aware, particularly those in the charity sector or living in South-West London, or both, this weekend bicycles will take over the capital city in a festival of all things two-wheeled ; the largest of its kind in the world.

The weekend’s centre-piece is the 100 mile mass-participation bike ride around the Surrey hills – similar to the route of the London Olympic road race. Amongst the 26,000 riders who have signed up in an over-subscribed ballot are Liz and Al Sim, who have kindly and bravely taken on the challenge to ride the whole route -Box and Leith Hill included – for the Mali Development Group (MDG).

Now, there a plenty of causes out there, but please spare a thought and perhaps a few pounds for Liz and Al  who are much more at home on the tennis court on in a sailing boat than in the saddle  of a bicycle. They could certainly do with your support!

Click the link and follow the instructions to make a donation: http://maligiving.com/sims We are very grateful for your support.

MDG supports Malian partner organisations Jeunesse et Developpement and Pensions a Demain. Between them their work support community development, healthcare accessibility, and the employment and artistic skills of street children, as well as many long-term impact livelihood projects like irrigation dams and mills.

For more information about the kind of thing your kind donations will support please visit the MDG website: http://malidg.org.uk

Thank you, and good luck Liz and Al! May the wind be forever on your tail.

Djelimady Tounkara – Mandé Djeliou : Mali Song of the Week

How to submit a post

Over the past week many of you have been in touch to ask how to get a post up on the Hub. The response to the new Hub has been fantastic – all your suggestions have been greatly appreciated and will all be up soon. In response, there is now a permenent Forum post with the process of getting materials  up on the site, which I repeat here:

Please send all ideas, reports, articles and hyperlinks to sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk.

Every post on the MIH is catergorised under the following headers by subject. Therefore, when submiting a post for publication it would be useful for you to consider how the post may be categorised:

Current Affairs

Conflict
Development
Environment
News
Politics

Music & Culture

Art
‘Meeting Mali’ (for snapshots of Malian life)
Music
Sport

Action & Appeals

Appeals
Events (UK or Mali)
Petitions
Volunteering

Reports & Resources

History
Organisational News
Reports

It’s easy enough to open up a new category if required so do write in with your suggestions for that too.

We also aim to feature an image on every post, where possible. The correct credit and source of any photos must be published (name, agency and hyperlink). This must be included.

Otherwise, that’s about it. Join in!

Speaking of categories, Tounkara’s album which this week’s song comes from “Sigui” won the Africa category at the BBC 3 Awards for World Music in 2002, beating fellow Malian nominees Habib Kioté and Rokia Traore in the process. When featured for the first time on the Hub I was “boggled that Tounkara’s acoustic-guitar spectacular hadn’t been a SOTW already”. It seems that arriving later that expected is a Toukaran trait. Jon Lusk also expressed huge surprise when writing in 2001 he reported that:

“…incredibly, it wasn’t until this year that his first solo album was released. Sigui showcases his remarkable finger picking skills in the context of an acoustic ensemble. Tounkara reinterprets old traditional griot tunes and a number of classic songs from the Rail Band years with the help of nine talented singers and instrumentalists. His intricate runs of notes are accompanied by percussion, bass, guitar and the scrabbling notes of the ‘ngoni’, considered by many to be West African precursor of the banjo.”

And, famously and sadly, Tounkara’s participation in a collaboration with the best of Cuban music was also delayed, the guitarist missing out on the Buena Vista Social Club project on diplomatic technicalities. Even so, it hardly matters in the long run. As Lusk explains:

“Fans of Djelimady’s inimitable guitar technique have been waiting a long time for this record and few are disappointed with it.”

Djemilady Tounkara – Mandé Djeliou

 

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.

Central Mali: An Uprising in the Making? – new report from International Crisis Group

A new report has been published by the International Crisis Group on the “protracted instability” in central Mali. As well as providing a comprehensive overview of the problems the country has faced over the last few years and providing extensive policy recommendations for the Malian government and the international community (namely the EU and UN) , the report provides a renewed focused on an often sidelined region of Mali – its very centre. Noting that issues are often presented in a north/south narrative, the report has immediately utility.

The full report is available in French from the International Crisis Group website.

A thorough Executive Summary including Recommendations is available in English.

Photo Credit: AFP/Daniel Riffet

Amadou and Mariam – Welcome to Mali : Mali Song of the Week

Welcome indeed! To what I feel is a new and improved Mali Interest Hub. I hope you will agree. Along with the obvious change in appearance, there has been some fundamental changes to the site’s functionality that will now cater for a whole range of different content and enable the ready exchange of news and ideas amongst readers. The two main changes are the site’s new indexing system – allowing readers to filter articles, resources, appeals, media and much more by different categories – and the introduction of the Mali Interest Forum – where users can generate and comment on threads about any topic of their choice.

Through all these chops, changes and additions the purpose of the Hub remains the same: “to raise awareness not only about the vibrant country that is Mali, but also the wide ranging issues that affect it.” A crucial part of achieving this goal has been to help bring together all who have an interest of any kind in the well-being and future of Mali and its people. Previously, we have focused on music and culture – starting with the celebration of the boldest and brightest facets of Malian life. And while the Song of the Week isn’t going anywhere, this new Mali Interest Hub will only thrive in the way it should with a steady stream of content. With this, we need your help. It will become what we make of it. Has the NGO you work for or support published a new report? Have you seen a petition circulating online? Will you be travelling to Mali and need some advice? Are you already there and need a lift? Is there an event in Parliament or is Vieux Farka Toure playing your home town? The Hub has a great new potential to connect all who love Mali in a new and exciting way, and therefore we would simply love to hear from you. Tell us what’s going on.

Over the course of the next few weeks you will see a whole load of new and hopefully interesting content make its way onto the site. If during this period you begin receiving hundreds of email notifications please let me know and please accept my apologies – there are still a few tiny issues to iron out. But on the whole, I’m pretty chuffed with the results so far – and the fun has only just begun.

Thanks for sticking with us. Here’s to the future. “I ni ce!”

Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali 

 

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.

Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté – Lampedusa : Mali Song of the Week

Gently does it. What’s the rush? Come on, treat yourself to the grand-master of the serene and his son in this sensational duet. The double-kora combines like a pair of butterflies dancing in the breeze, the feather-like strums light enough to float on air. The song blooms and busies itself with the intricate, cascading melodies the kora – especially when under the thumbs of a Diabaté – are known for. But all the while, the song remains sturdy. It eases up periodically, flowing into a chorus of sorts. Achingly so. Where the silences between the notes create the effect. In fact it is these sudden, tiny, absences, the cold gaps in the sunlight, that define the song. You urge it on; hoping to return to the pleasant melodies.

Instead it peters out, returning home. To nothing.

Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté – Lampedusa

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.

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.