Category Archives: Music

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio : Mali Song of the Week

Quite a tragic choice of song considering this week’s subject matter. The music itself is triumphant, relentless – a Malian griot’s response to “We Will Rock You” but with Freddie Mercury’s half-rap substituted for cascading, whirling, soaring kora, spellbinding vocals with that stadium-thumping beat. Triumphant is definitely the spirit of today as the music world celebrates the symbolic importance and the outright splendour of Bamako’s first major international music festival since le crise in 2012 – the Festival Acoustik de Bamako.

But why tragic? Well that lies in the tale of ‘Mali Sadio’, an old Malian story passed down generations through oral traditions. It details the friendship (borderlind love affair, in some versions) between a woman and a hippopotamus. A hunter, becoming infatuated with the woman, kills her friend the hippo, but – unsurprisingly – finds her not more amiable than before. Disastrously for the woman’s village, it turns out that the hippo was doing a very good job of keeping the dangers of the natural world away – a security now lost and terror ensues. The moral of the story: “the selfish actions of a single person bring pain and hardship on many others“.

Bamako knows plenty about that. So perhaps the story is fitting – a celebration, a mass outpouring of delight between peoples when they find music, their “guardian hippo” (I am sure that’s a thing), alive and well. In fact, its full of youth and life with rap stars and local talent . The festival was masterminded by Toumani Diabaté, organised by Fatoumata Sow, and championed by Culture Minister N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo. Minister Diallo explains that Mali’s music is its chief export its “our oil”. It is also more than that its the best channel Mali has open to the world to say “hey, we’re here. We are still living”. Its a brave shout with an official State of Emergency enduring. Anyone who is anyone in Malian music seemed to have been there. Associated musicians and collaborators too – like Derek Gripper, Tony Allan,  and Damon Albarn – ‘defied terrorism threats‘ to be there, the former using his classical guitar skills to emulate in tribute to Diabaté’s exceptional kora. Of course, Toumani Diabaté is top of the pile and thus unemulatable – if you want to bathe in his majesty you have to go to the man himself, hence this week’s choice. A choice that certainly wants to bring attention to Diabaté’s lesser known work with his Symmetric Orchestra who headlined the Festival’s Friday line-up.

The people of Bamako will be delighted to have the State of Emergency swapped for a state of euphoria – albeit temporarily. The sense of normality with people out in the streets, enjoying the music, with international stars and media coming and going safely is far more significant. Bamako and the world has obviously enjoyed the success of the occasion. But what of the rest of Mali? Inclusiveness was emphasised in the event’s organisation – artists from the north were there but none of them Toureg, apparently. This suggests that despite the best efforts of  Mali’s heroes, its people, its government, and the world – the country remains fractured, inaccessible and frayed. Not helplessly, but simply still. 

The festival has to be taken for what it is. A great leap forward. An oasis in an conflict that still has no end in sight. An expression of unity, peace and communal joy counter to those selfish acts that have brought so much pain and hardship to ordinary people all over Mali.

 

 

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio

 

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.

Djelimady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama: Mali Song of the Week

Song Of The Week? On a Friday?!

Yes – apologies for the delay. But trust me, this one is worth the wait. Boggled that Tounkara’s acoustic-guitar spectacular hadn’t been a SOTW already, it was time to set the record straight. It is equally astonishing that a man of such accolade has only been plucked out once to provide our weekly musical highlight.

All of that changes today with ‘Fanta Bourama’, the opening track of both his 2011 album ‘Solon Kono‘ and the highly enjoyable complication disc ‘The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends‘. The song’s opening realises a bridge between Morocco and Spain – a structure which in engineering terms remains a fantasy yet is a long-time cultural reality. Each pluck of a string strips down to that quintessential Mediterranean sound, fusing two continents together in that ever-rolling exchange initiated by the Berbers with their invasion of Spain nearly 1300 years ago.

Tounkara, a member of Mali’s prestigious and ground-breaking Rail Band, has added his own magic to the mix. The Rail Band exemplified the West African 1970s affinity for Iberian, Cuban and Latin music. Tounkara’s supreme talent with an acoustic guitar made him the best equipped to delve deep into this world and allowed him to emerge with the most exquisite results. It was a great shame then that he was unable to take up his invitation to join the gathering musical grandmasters in Cuba in that super-group which was to become the Buena Vista Social Club.

Not that he needed it. So busy collaborating, inventing and performing was Tounkara he only got round to producing his first studio album in 2001, producing several others since. With ‘oversight’ being the surprise theme of the week, each of these gifts to the world will be meticulously combed from now on. You can be sure to hear some more of his gems before long.

 

Djemilady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama

 

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 – Kèlè Mandi: Mali Song of the Week

A song of immense beauty tops the bill this week as we delve into the depths of Rokia Traore’s earlier work. ‘Kèlè Mandi’ hails from her third studio album ‘Bowmboï’ released in 2003. Justifying their choice for making its Album of the Year, BBC Radio 3 highlighted the view that ‘Bowmboï’ represented “a defining release for an artist who must now be considered world class”.  The real delight in the album is not the racy, high-energy music that Mali is more commonly associated; instead “it’s in the slower pieces where the production allows detail to shine – as in her use of vocal harmonies…and constantly surprising little instrumental colours.”

‘Kèlè Mandi’ is a delicate master-piece that allows us to hear each of those features in perfect balance. The guitar flowing alongside the vocals, which flutter and climb with a gentle strength. It makes the song electrifying, yet relaxing, like a lone tenor in the majesty of a cathedral. But it is more earthy and colourful than that.

Traore is a true realisation of that famous phrase: that form is temporary and class is permanent. Fast-forward to today and she is still going strong, perhaps stronger and wiser than ever. She is in London this week, performing at the Roundhouse on February 6th ahead of the release of her new album ‘Ne So’ on February 12th. Confessing not to be overtly political, Traoré explains in a separate interview – back at the BBC on January 27th – that the title track of the album, which means “home”, is “an invitation to think about the idea of ‘home’.” She continues saying that we forget that having somewhere to call home “is the basis of all in life …and when you understand the importance of home, you can understand the problem for people who have suddenly have no home” referring to the appalling situation of millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle-East. Pressing the issue she stresses the point that when you fully consider a refugee’s position in this way it becomes so clear that they “are not animals, they are humans.”

When confronted with someone who sings in multiple languages it is not often possible (unless you are very brainy)  to follow the exact meaning of each of their songs, especially when they tackle complex issues like the one above. But there is another, much more simple way of at least getting an idea of what she wishes to convey – simply tune into the abundant warmth , colour and staggering emotion in her music.

 

 

Rokia Traoré – Kèlè Mandi

 

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.

Habib Kioté – N’Ba : Mali Song of the Week

Its been two months since the Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Bamako where at least 20 people were killed. Among the dead were three executives from the international arm of the China Railway Construction Corporation. Why were these Chinese citizens there and what does this tell us about China’s interests in Africa? Firstly, a bit of back-story: China and Mali have just completed a deal to completely revolutionise international rail travel in the Sahel by building a 1286km railway to Dakar the port capital city of Senegal. There is also a project tabled to build another line to another port city – Conakry in Guinea. These two projects come with a cost of a whopping $10 billion (reflecting for a moment that Mali’s entire GDP for 2014 was $12.04 billion). It represents a significant investment to say the least. China is thirsty for resources,  Mali is desperate to sell them. What is needed is an efficient way to get them from one country to the other – China needs this railway as much as Mali does.

Should this be celebrated overtly or cautiously? Its no doubt that a splash of modern infrastructure is a good thing. However, many have warned of a growing Chinese imperialism – China using its dominance economically in an exploitative manner. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has assured that cooperation across Africa would not “take the old road by traditional powers” nor “sacrifice Africa’s environment and long-term interests”. We’ve heard that one before, and raises another question about the complicity of Mali’s own elite; is it the everyday Malian that will benefit from or bear the cost of this arrangement? How much choice does a struggling country like Mali have? Often the case is made that it is necessary, or even preferable, to short-cut some democratic processes to allow the sweeping changes need to ‘eradicate’ poverty. This article argues that is a false choice. Jan Abbink from The Broker Online explains:

“Apart from the morally questionable aspects in this line of thinking, there is considerable doubt about the approach’s long-term effects. Also scientifically, it is dubious. There is no significant evidence that hardline authoritarian rule in development will be durable or that it will provide social cohesion.”

He continues, clarifying that:

“Of course neither is there significant evidence that democratic models guarantee growth and stability, especially not in multi-ethnic countries. Skewed economic policies, exclusivism and unfairness in the distribution of ‘resources’, non-transparent, non-representational politics, and phantom justice systems will, at some point, inevitably create emergent protests, social movements, resistance or silent sabotage among the population not getting a good deal.”

In the case of Mali, we already have resistance and a not-so-silent sabotage from a population perceivably not getting a good deal. We also have the spectre of international militant groups and their splintered associates to contend with. The issue in Mali is not exclusively developmentalist, but also a global security matter which China’s bulging economic demands are rubbing up against increasingly. Harry Verhoeven of the University of Oxford observes that ” the PRC is slowly but surely giving up its controversial policy of non-interference. This is not so much the product of a carefully considered foreign policy shift as it is a logical response to both acute security crises on the [African] continent in recent years and China’s re-emergence as a global power with ever greater interests, ever further afield.” This shift, which has staggering implications for the rest of the planet, has lead to one commentator to declare that China is on “a collision course” with ISIS, providing particular detail on the scale of China’s dependence on its investments in the developing world coming good and ISIS’s own efforts to target China.

With so much at stake, has China visably changed its behaviour in response to a  deteriorating security situation? China had already broken new ground in regards to its approach to peacekeeping opertaions before the Radisson attack. This article even argued ahead of time that China’s cautious attitude “might change overnight if an attack on Chinese companies or civilians takes place in the region”. It is always interesting to see when the economic interests of a superpower are threatened, logisitical issues across Africa become a solvable issue – of course, only when resources and materials are moving out of Africa. Getting things in, trivial things like humanitarian aid and essential relief to those suffering today is another story. Professor Ian Taylor from the University of St Andrews comments on this wider trend in Africa. He writes that “the fundamental problem facing Africa is governance…” adding “it doesn’t matter how many roads or ports” you have. Indeed, Alessandra Dentice, the deputy representative of Unicef, says her agency’s efforts are being frustrated by “the lack of government personnel in certain areas”. Getting the country secure and governed correctly in a more holistic way, more than just closing up porous borders and managing to keep a railway open, is required.

We must fear that instead of the country being rebuilt, it will simply be hollowed out.

 

Habib Kioté – N’Ba

 

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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Lassina Coulibaly & Yan Kadi Faso- Soundjata 

Another week, another city rocked by violence. This time its the turn of Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, suffering its first major attack from al-Qaeda affiliated group AQIM. Much has been made of Burkina Faso’s place in the global picture of violence and instability, with some pointing to tragedies that occurred simultaneously, though seemingly unrelated directly, while many others have inspected the aftermath looking for clues to shed light onto al-Qaeda’s strategic positioning and organisational health more generally. Though it is worth pointing out that in their own terms this latest attack was merely ‘drop in the sea of global jihad.’  Trouble has been brewing in Burkina Faso for a while, but it is only now that people have considered it to be firmly in the ‘terrorised’ club of countries around the world.

Across the border – and indeed at the border – with neighbouring Mali the security situation continues to be a challenge. With Burkina Faso to the south and east and a peace deal with the Tuareg-led coalition in the northern regions still unobtainable Mali is currently dealing with militant groups on at least two different fronts. Therefore, the recent announcement that Mali and Burkina Faso were to collaborate on matters relating to the ‘fight against terrorism‘ are welcome though details remain unclear. It is certain that Burkina Faso, like Mali before it, could well be in the scrap of its life. With its first Presidential elections in decades happening only last November, with a failed coup by a section of its elite in the interim, Burkina Faso’s political, civil and military systems are especially vulnerable at present. The vacuum left by years of authoritarian governance is already being exploited, a uncharted bay in the ‘sea of global jihad’. Its almost enough to make Mali look like the stable partner within the arrangement. It will be interesting to see how Mali’s relationship with its neighbour develops and whether a full-blow crisis, similar to that seen in Mali in 2012, ever emerges.

Mali and Burkina Faso’s neighbourly relations go back much further than the past few weeks. Its peoples were once joined in the grand Malian Empire of the middle ages, the topic of this week’s Song of the Week being a legendary tale from that time. The song is composed and performed by Lassina Coulibaly who hails from both Mali and Burkina Faso along with many other, predominantly Malian, African musicians – the Yan Kadi Faso band. Together they produced an entire album of beautiful arrangements, with the kora and djembe putting in particularly delightful performances. With an entire album to explore – entitled “Musiques Du Burkina Faso & Du Mali” – the music has the space to captures a huge range of different West African cultures such as the Bambara, Dioula, Gouin, Maninka, Fulani, and Samoro peoples.

For this week, and likely for a little while longer, Mali and Burkina Faso will be countries joined in misery. Yet for centuries, past and future, their peoples are engaged in the production of the purest joy.

 

Lassina Coulibaly & Yan Kadi Faso – Soundjata

 

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.

 

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Siren Fen

For the previous  two occasions the opening Song of the Week of the year has been delivered by a Malian griot. Not wanting to break tradition just yet we return from a short break with ngoni grand-master Bassekou Kouyate. Siren Fen is from Kouyate’s most recent album ‘Ba Power’ released in 2015. With 3 more albums already under his belt, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba used ‘Ba Power’ to push the boundaries a little further and earned themselves great recognition, making it to the number 1 spot on a BBC ‘Top African Tracks of 2015‘ list compiled by DJ Rita Ray with this week’s song. She points to its “magical blend of ancient griot traditions and modern music making”. The use of electronic elements is particularly new for Kouyate, who we can hear using wah pedal and distortion effects through-out the song.

Onward into this New Year we march, leaving an exceptional year for Malian and African music behind. Hopes for the continent for 2016 noted in this article allude to the fact that Mali’s Festival Au Desert continues its exile. However in 2015 new festivals, in Segou in particular, gained traction and many artists have albums due for release this year. So while the security situation remains bleak the artistic outlook for the country is quite excellent. We’re delighted to have Kouyate kick-off what should be another successful year for the Hub.

 

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Siren Fen

 

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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Yacouba Sissoko Band – Chanson Denko Tapestry

Track 8 from the 2013 album Maison des Jeunes, Yacouba Sissoko and his band bring a feast of percussion to this collaboration compilation. The musicians on the album were a real range of characters. Songhoy Blues did their début European performance in London at the album’s launch party, with producers Damon Albarn and Brian Eno present to help things along. British artists Ghostpoet and Metronomy were also involved not only in the production of the album but in nurturing the talent that were lucky enough to get a foot in the door. It was an important moment for the Malian music industry, but also for the British scene too. Bands like Songhoy Blues have become astonishingly popular in UK hipster circles, along with other West African superstars like Ebo Taylor and Fela Kuti. Rarely can an evening out go by in the bars of East London or Peckham without 1970s Ghanian Funk making an appearance. Well, at least in the places I hang out…

The Sissoko Band track is fairly unconventional for a Malian peice.  It has that familiar mesmerising rhythm, but its the drums that take the lead, with the ngonis yielding to their pace and melodies. Its a dance, perhaps even a duel. They flicker, twist and turn together, endlessly keeping pace. One unknown element is the title; does anyone know what the Chanson Denko Tapestry is?

Yacouba Sissoko Band – Chanson Denko Tapestry

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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Nahawa Doumbia – Sadjo

Today’s marks the first appearance of Wassoulou singer Nahawa Doumbia, joining a prestigious club of singers from the region already to appear on the Hub over the past two years; Oumou Sangare easily being the most famous. Wassoulou singers are strongly associated with traditional Malian music. Ever popular with Mali’s people, it is primarily the domain of women and though traditional, its not the preserve of the conservative. Sangare is anything but conventional and artists like Issa Bagayogo have cleverly deployed their striking, soaring vocals into his chilled-out Afro-electro. An excellent blend. Doumbia pulls off a similarly exceptional mix. With deep, pulsing jazz-keys forging the base of the track, ‘Sajdo’ incorporates the kora and a lyrical, poetic genre of singing.

If fact the whole of the album ‘Diby’ is very experimental and worth a listen. Male chorus, percussion from every era, bafalon jams, jazz bass, rumbling keys, bouncing acoustics, ripping guitar solos and a beautiful range of vocals provided by a dynamic and delightful woman.

 

Nahawa Doumbia – Sadjo

 

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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Afel Bocoum – Buribalal

Culture! West Africa is full of it. Mali being a big part of that. It’s neighbours, Guinea and Niger, weigh in heavily in that regard too. And its not just about music and the British Library is currently doing a wonderful job of explaining that. Through manuscript displays, film, sound, textiles, poetry and artefacts the early- to late-modern history of this fantastic region is brought to life in a magnificent exhibition. Here’s a great Christmas Gift idea: for £10.00 (or less!) you can have a Curator-Led tour of the exhibition, available through to February 9th 2016.

Back in the early 90’s – when this week’s Song of the Week was forged – Bocoum was understudy to the great Ali Farka Toure, who had this to say about him in a short documentary: ” In all truth I hope he would go further than me. I think he will contribute to our art, culture and history, we must learn from him too.” Sounds like Farka Toure called it years ahead of time, as I review what we have written previously about Afel Bocoum’s diverse cultural and intellectual offerings. He does not carry the same majesty as Farka Toure, but perhaps no one ever will. And who ever said fame was a precursor to making cultural and historical contributions? Bocoum’s achievements have been great and he is still out there striving, contributing to Mali’s history as he goes. For example, he was an important part of the ‘revival‘ of Mali’s music scene following the war and the ban in 2012 and continues to be a great ambassador for his country and region to the world.

 

Afel Bocoum – Buribalal

 

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.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure – Keito

Chilling are my own words. Reading them back, the curse of hindsight. Last week I wrote in response to the attack in Paris;

‘Will the war in Mali remain ‘forgotten‘ or will this provoke renewed focus on a country that appears to be slipping back to widespread violence?’

Focus has indeed been ‘renewed’ in the worst possible way. Al-Qaeda and its affiliated patchwork of militant groups are believed to have forced its way back into the headlines off the back of ISIS crimes in Paris by attacking a hotel in Bamako, holding 140 hostage and eventually killing 22. A bloody competition between two dreadful groups of people.

Many commentators have responded to the events of the past few weeks by feeling inclined to declare that French society will survive, making one immediately wonder whether these people actually believed that there was a chance it could die out. To emphasise their point, TV personalities like John Oliver and Andrew Neil made and read out lists of “things we have been told are great about France”. John Oliver – a comedian – made his list in comical style, and by doing so he acknowledged that he was participating in shameless nationalistic rabble-rousing in a time that France and all that love her needed it. Neil, however, appeared entirely serious, using references on a cosmic, sensationalist scale, for example by painting a slap-dash picture of the world in a thousands years time. Frankie Boyle’s retort points out the ridiculousness of the style by pointing out that many of the points on Neil’s list either contradict each other or achieved greatness precisely because they refused to be sucked into the prevailing national sentiments of their time, had the courage to challenge military-autocratic France and think creatively and compassionately about the liberty of all mankind, often arguing how the state must be renewed (or demolished) for this to be fully realised. Hardly the current view of Cameron or Hollande.

This rhetoric whips up the idea that this is a clash of culture and civilisation. It is dangerous to believe that the world is organised this simply; in an world without history where the value of ideas, identities and culture are constants. This conveniently forgets (perhaps purposefully) the battles and unpopularity that many revolutionaries faced on their long walks to freedom.

Many times on the Hub we have spoken about the importance of understanding Mali’s unique tolerant and pluralistic brand of Islam. There is a battle, a real battle, to secure these teachings along with Mali’s musical and historical traditions for its future generations. But this requires a moderate, compassionate response, one which Mali and many other countries are not receiving from the outside world. Not from Western governments at least who prefer to build their alliances and ‘shake hands’ with other, more zealous, countries in the Middle-East, somewhat counter productively. At this moment I am reminded by the comments of the Prime Minister of Rwanda in 1994, days before her genocidal murder, in the film adaptation of UN Force Commander Dallaire‘s book ‘Shake Hands with the Devil‘:
Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana: “I love my country. I hope you’ll love it too.”
Romeo Dallaire: “I love its beauty.”
Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana: “Everyone loves beauty. Loving a beautiful child…That’s easy. What’s harder is to love a child that is not so beautiful.”

[YouTube link to film – you may need to put on subtitles]

The metaphor is of Rwandan society – when it turns ugly, will anyone care enough to save it? A similar, frightening parallel can be drawn between France and Mali. France, with its shining light of Paris, is beautiful. Insatiable and oozing with classic human culture. It would be uncivilised not to drop bombs in its defence. Mali, on the other hand, is poor. Its dusty and far away. It is a majority Muslim country, and the situation is far harder to unpick. Who’s side are they on, in this war between us and them? Where do you rally? Where is the unequivocal beauty?

We all know this to be Mali’s music. We should listen to Mali’s musicians – its chief ambassadors for an open and cooperative society. We should not shy away from direct action where we can take it. We are relieved to report that the Mali Development Group’s Malian partners, their staff and all our family and friends have made it out of this most recent, high-profile attack on Bamako okay. Others, as we know, did not. And there will be further attacks as there have been previously. This is not a time to withdraw. In fact its a time to engage more urgently. This is not the time as Frankie Boyle puts it to “for society to go on psychopathic autopilot”. It is neither time to makes a reassuringly long list of things you like, or have been told to like, about your own country. This is the time to take pride in the culture of others. To reach out to try and understand the beauty of things you previously have struggled to understand. That’s why this week we have Ali Farka Toure, the Malian who is single handedly responsible for there being so many people world-wide praying, wishing and working for a safer Mali, and a more beautiful world.

 

 

Ali Farka Toure – Keito

 

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.