Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Issa Bagayogo – Kalan Nege

Modern Mali. What imagery do those two words conjure? Carnage and instability, usually.  A democratic, tolerant society struggling against war and poverty. A country reeling from a ‘lost decade’ where Mali was once paraded in international development circles as the example of a stable, developing, democratic country for all Africa to follow, whilst in reality those in absolute poverty rose and trafficking of arms and drugs flourished.

Here on the Hub we have always insisted that whatever the weather Mali would always have its music to depend on. Music in Mali is a rallying point. It serves as a social and political innovator and a place where ideas, emotions and histories are melded and mulled over. It is also very often where the opening chords to Mali’s future can be heard first and in this regard Issa Bagayogo is one of  Mali’s chief pioneers. Known as ‘Techno Issa‘ , Bagayogo has a flair for integrating traditional West Africa instruments and vocals into rhythmic electronic music.

So is there any indication that Mali will recover in the future? Taking Issa Bagayogo’s lead, the merging of music and the technologies is under way in Bamako again, but in a completely different fashion altogether. African-born, Award-Winning, American pop artist Akon has in the past year launched ‘Akon Lighting Africa’; a project which has tasked itself with bringing clean, renewable solar energy to the 600 million Africans that still live without electricity. Details are still a bit thin on how this “public-private partnership” operates, particularly as much of the capital investment has come from China, but it looks promising. The current views on China’s business practices on the continent are mixed, with imperialist amber warnings rightfully present in any situation that sees seemingly benevolent action on behalf of the Chinese underpinned by massive quantities of raw materials swiftly shipped back in the other direction. However, the solar project has grabbed a lot of attention and certainly sounds like the real-deal in its publicity materials by showing a clear understanding of the problem and the knock-on effects electric-isolation has on health, access to food and education.

The best news is that the project’s new ‘Solar Academy‘ announced by Akon will be based in Bamako. The best solar engineers and entrepreneurs from across Africa, from Europe and China will congregate in Mali’s capital to create innovative solutions to the continent’s energy problems. Apart from the potential boost this will be for the economy, it is a massive endorsement for the city itself. The fact that Bamako can attract these highly-skilled, ‘jobs of the future’ (one that appear to be so illusive to the UK) should go a long way to repaint images of what we believe ‘modern Mali’ to be capable of.

 

Issa Bagayogo – Kalan Nege

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