Tag Archives: Adama Traore

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Terakaft – Tahra A Issasnanane

Continuing with our Zepplin vibe from last week, we fly north to the home of Terakaft. This song was singled out from a list rich of Tuareg talents for its steel-string guitar, more restful than its electric cousin yet with more drive than its nylon string brother. Nice and reflective, the YouTube community would have me believe that the song title roughly translates as “Sometimes, love has thorns”.

Which kind of love does the song have in mind? Lover’s love? Brotherly love? The love between countrymen? Could be any. As the fragile peace accord signed in June is already unravelling, it is difficult to look beyond the latter. Any love that the pro-government militias and the separatist group showed earlier this summer has been blown asunder by the news that the militia had taken the town of Anefis on August 17th – a direct violation of the peace agreement. The UN responded by sending troops to a separatist stronghold in an attempt to halt the militia’s advances  and save the accord from further damage.

How much control is exercised by the government over the militias is unclear. Peace between the separatist CMA and the militias is presented as a pre-cursor to the army and the UN tackling hard-line, militant, Islamist groups which appear to be the real immediate priority. Therefore, it would lead one to deduce that the violation of the agreement by the so called pro-Bamako militia’s are a proverbial thorn in the government’s security agenda. On the other hand, it would not be the first time in the history of conflict that a period of ceasefire, with all the positive rhetoric and symbolic gesturing, has been initiated and broken for strategic gain. Yet in this scenario it looks bad to be the one to break it…

Elsewhere, around 3000 miles further north, a new frontier emerged where young Malian men also did battle. In a violation of the typical peace and serenity south London is known for, two Malian men stepped out of relative obscurity to go head to head, both backed by highly-trained international mercenaries. Bakary Sako, 27 year old Malian striker for Crystal Palace, netted on his home debut to be Man of the Match and beat Aston Villa despite the promising, albeit late, injection of pace and ability from Villa’s 19 year old substitute Adama Traore. Following the game, Traore – a summer purchase from Barcelona – indicated he will choose to serve Mali, the country of his parents, at international level from now on. Traore is a Spanish national and has played promisingly all the way up to Under-18 level but for reasons not yet known he has decided to switch. Switching national allegiance is remarkably common; recent high-profile players to do so include Diego Costa (Brazil to Spain), Lukas Podolski (Poland to Germany), Thiago Motta (Brazil to Italy) and Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana) who, like Traore, breaks the tradition of moving allegiances away from the developing world to Europe.

Does the love of one’s country or sense of place sometimes have thorns? Certainly can. It is curious however that for something like nationality which is often presented in Britain as an absolute, a truth and an obvious feature of one’s identity, for Mali it often a mixed and contested concept. For a footballer its can be as simple as personal preference, or even – cynically – exchanged as part of a good career move. But that’s nothing new. For the separatist its a matter of life and death. It’s of huge political significance and, when branded as a national of a country they do not recognise, it can be considered a source of oppression.

Does Mali have to have a uniform sense of nationhood for peace to be realised? Now that has to be a question for another time…


Terakaft – Tahra A Issasnanane

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Rail Band – Duga

“Your work is a lesson in tolerance, dialogue and peace… it is an answer to all extremists whose echo can be heard well beyond the borders of Mali.”

For years now we have show how musicians in Mali have lent their voices and instruments to the resolution and discussion of many problems in Malian society – the conflict, ebola and the treacherous migration to a life in Europe all being some of the topics analysed, interpreted and presented through music. This is all with a distinctly nod to a growing, and lucrative, international audience. On the home front, its time for the masons to lead the charge against intolerance. The quote above is from UNESCO’s Irina Bokova, who paid tribute to the year-long work of 140 highly-skilled Malian masons in restoring the tombs and mausoleums of Timbuktu. 14 of the 16 World Heritage Sites were destroyed by extremists during the 2012/13 conflict, with the armed insurgent group claiming their contents were idolatrous – including irreplacable manuscripts, all dating back to Timbuktu’s intellectual and spiritual golden age in the 15th/16th century.

Irina Bokova continued in interview to state that UNESCO had instructed the International Criminal Court to look into their destruction as a war crime, citing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This is not a new idea as Bokova’s similar statements in 2012 encouraged a New York based law student to analyse how the legal scenario would play out. Perhaps the judicial process would only be thrilling to a legal eye, its implications however could be interesting to many.

As UNESCO recommends in a separate document, would the Malian army really prioritise in future the deployment of ‘special units’ of its army to protect ‘cultural property’ when it struggles to defend its borders and citizens? It could be an example of how a security situation can become globalised; where the demands of an intellectually engaged community across the world can influence the reordering of a society post-conflict with their own priorities. Though well intentioned, this can be based on perceived ‘losses’ during the conflict experienced from afar. The mausoleums and manuscripts are known by many world-wide and are considered world heritage. Its an issue we have discussed before and it gets pretty complex both legally and morally. I guess its worth watching this space till either the ICC or UNESCO provide greater detail on the charges, which remain unclear.

So hats off to the master masons of Timbuktu. Foreign funds have provided employment for reportedly 140 people in this project that will last up to 4 years. In the end, culture and history are important to any economic recovery too. Providing jobs and attracting tourists. Its been many decades since Timbuktu was a real destination for the adventurous, maybe even before the days of the famous Rail Band. Here’s to hoping that the excellent work of 140 locals is not in vain and a new golden age for the city is on the way soon.



Rail Band – Duga


Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

SMOD – Fitri Waleya

This week is all about youth. Music served up by SMOD, cause for celebration served up by Mali’s superb under-20s football team – returning heroes from the U20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand. SMOD, formed in 2000, are quite  sophisticated hip-hop group. Acoustic elements, latin vibes, articulate lyrics but contemporary bounce and rhythm. All this whilst remaining critical of the state-of-affair’s their generation are steadily inheriting. ‘Fitri Waleya’ captures that quintessential hip-hop mood; critical, angry, disappointed, but also present is an underlining optimism and faith in their own individual agency and ideas. Though the expression of critique these artists show their belief in something better. The popularity of rap music is delivering these messages to the masses. Will this make for a more politically sceptical, perhaps more resilient and savvy next generation?

On the other-side of the planet, a more immediate obvious cause for optimism has caught the world’s attention. But first, a bit of context; Africa is football-mad. The comprehensive nature of the continent’s obsession with the sport is hugely significant in how African nations see themselves, each other and their place in reference to the rest of the world. The case of Ghana at the South African World Cup in 2010 illustrates this well. The media frenzy that follows the tournament focused heavily on the idea that the ‘hopes of a continent‘ rested on Ghana, the only African nation to make it through to the quarter finals. This was Ghana’s first time to this lofty height since 1970. With a great team, Ghana had an excellent shot at going one further and becoming the first African team ever to reach a semi-final. Instead of the competition between nations, as often seen amongst European countries, Africans band together. In 2010 people all over Africa came together, as their own teams steadily dropped out the world’s premier sporting occasion. The Ghanin players took on their new roles with earnest. Star-striker Asamoah Gyan devoted the win over the USA which he orchestrated to ‘the whole of Africa’.

In the quarter-final, ultimately, all Africans (and many, many others world-wide) were collectively distraught at the final result. In defeat the bruised “Golden Generation” of Black Stars surrendered their place as the hopes of the continent to another country, yet to be selected for this high honour.

Could Mali step up? Their rampant youth certainly have the potential. Mali’s U20s, managed by Fanyeri Diarra, blew away their African “brothers” Senegal in a superb display in the bronze medal match, including a double-save from Mali’s keeper, to protect the Malian’s lead and then the deal-sealed with a team wonder-goal finished off by Diadie Samassékou. But who will lead these rising heroes? Step forth ‘Magician’ Adama Traore, winner of the tournament’s best player ‘Gold Ball’ award.

Annoyingly, these boys will come of age at Qatar’s shameful World Cup in 2022, which I was hoping to boycott. Anyway, they’ve got to qualify first so for now, we’ll just let the music play.



SMOD – Fitri Waleya