Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Mylmo – Propheciline 

“I thought I knew something about Malian music. Toumani Diabate, Rokia Traore, Oumou Sangare, Salif Keita, Vieux Farka Toure, Tinariwen. They’re the heroes, right? They’re the legends, the pop icons, the road blockers. I know there are rappers in Mali, just as I know there are rappers all over Africa. But I never knew that the rappers had taken over.” – Andy Morgan

Monday just passed (22nd of September 2014) was Mali’s Independence Day. It’s 54th to be precise, and the country was congratulated from all over the world on another year of self-rule and a day of national pride. Mali is perhaps one of the few countries in the world that would receive such messages of support from President’s of both the USA and Iran, the former highlighting the Malian government’s continued commitment to democratic rule and reconciliation, the latter using the day to emphasise its on-going goal of improving relations with the country and continent.

From a British perspective Malian independence means a whole lot for the residents of Hay-on-Wye in Powys, just on the Welsh-side of the border. Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Timbuktu and – accordingly – marks Malian independence with fundraising and celebrations. This year it took the form of a week-long multi-cultural affair with displays, cinema, food and music events all aimed at raising funds to help tackle some of it’s twin-town’s most pressing urban problems. In similar festival spirit seen during the Olympic games in London and the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, displays will line the windows of the town and later this week Mark Saade, Malian Consul, will judge the entries. Good luck, and good fun to everyone there.

Of course, the most important place on Mali Independence Day is Mali itself. This year passes with barely a hint of the optimism or relief from last year‘s celebrations – many people in Mali are now of the opinion that the government has failed to act, is not delivering on its promises and has slipped into the corruptive problems of the past. Regionally, the threat of Ebola looms large, bringing further bad news to an already challenging economic and agricultural recovery.  This does not mean that Malian’s are not down-trodden. Community action appears to be bubbling and Malian’s from many walks of life are motivated to step in, in their government’s absence, to make the changes they wish to see.

This week’s song of the week is for Mali’s youth. The passage at the top of the page is to remind us of all the love, support and admiration we provide for Malian’s and their country, at the end of the day, it is their country and we must celebrate the way they do. Andy Morgan declares that Malian rap music has “taken over” Mali’s music scene. Sequentially, this must mean they have also captured the most popular vehicle for political discourse in the country.

Mali’s rap may not be its most popular musical export to the Western world. However, if you want to know what’s going on in the hearts of everyday Malians – if you want to hear what its people are saying – then Mali’s rap music is definitely the place to begin listening.

Mylmo – Propheciline

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