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 –

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at 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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *