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