We’ve gone for a load-saving re-brand. As of the end of this month, and in the final week of each one which will follow, the Song of The Week will become a once-monthly feature; replaced by the Song of the Month. Having run every week for just over three years it has explored all manner of topics in over 140 unique entries. This month, in a sad symbol of reality, focuses on an issue that would be topical in any week for several months. Three days after the 7-month State of Emergency was finally declared over Islamist militants killed 17 Malian soldiers in an attack by Ansar Dine on an army base in Nampala – bang in the middle of the country.
Whilst viewing the trailer for the film Mali Blues – a German film about “about the unifying Power of Music” – I discovered another new artist that has began his journey in composing the thoughts and voices of ordinary Malians. Sitting alongside household names like Fatoumata Diawara and Bassekou Kouyate on the film’s blurb is a young hip-hop rapper by the name Master Soumi (or often “Soumy”). This week’s song of the week shows the best of his style, the forthrightness, stripped-down and critical perspectives, and that resolute vision so effectively captured in hip-hop. Poignantly, the song’s title and chorus focus on a recurring message in Malian art and literature. In this article, the militants that killed 17 soldiers, and injured 35 more, are prefixed with ‘Islamist’. A debate rages across the world as to whether it is appropriate to refer to ISIL/Daesh as an Islamic organisation – or not – with controversy plaguing public figures on both sides of the discussion. Master Soumi takes a different approach. Acknowledging that many of these militant organisations refer to themselves as Islamic, he pins the argument back on them:
Kalashnikovs and bombs;
Explain your Islam!
100 lashes, immediate punishment;
Explain your Islam!
The use of the word “your” is crucial. It detracts from the religion as a motivation for their acts and restores a sense of individual choice, agency and responsibility. What becomes abhorrent is not the teachings, but the interpretations. The imagery of modern weaponry and outdated notions of justice emphasises the ridiculousness and absurdity of their practice and further distances them from the mainstream.
“Explique Ton Islam!” is also a feverously catchy statement. Hats of to ‘Master’ Soumi.
Photo Credit: DroitLibre.tv
Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.
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The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.