Tag Archives: Independence

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

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Ali Farka Touré – Timbindy

This week sees Mali celebrate its 53rd year of independence from France. Due to the intense sadness of recent years and the recovery that is battling bravely into life, this year’s independence parties and ceremonies will no doubt have a different feel to them. Amongst the celebrations it appears that for many the day will still be a time to reflect and look back on what Mali has endured. The new President will use the day as a way of forwarding national reconciliation by organising a get together of all former Heads of State, including previous military leaders.

Back in February, some argued persuasively that the military intervention of France would undermine the perceived independence of Mali in months and years to come.  On the other hand, it is widely accepted that the French intervention “brought Mali back from the brink” of total collapse.

Independence is a difficult concept to measure. Perhaps Mali’s sense of independence is still on the mend and the successful election process has been the most important aspect in its re-assertion since the intervention – Malians can begin to feel that they are back in control of their country.

Is it the same country?

This week’s track is from way back, long before Mali was a democracy. It has an undetermined date of when it was first written and it was recorded originally in the 1970s. “Timbindy” was released on Ali’s 1984 “Red” album – so called due to the bright red sleeve the record was contained in. Legendary broadcaster Andy Kershaw first heard of Ali Farka Touré by a chance selection from a Parisian record shop’s bargain-bin.  Immediately it was clear to him – his radio listeners – that this guy was special and had “just got it” and soon Farka Touré was in the UK and his world wide fame flourished. Many Malians will reflect, remember and reconcile this weekend. Looking back  provides us with reasons to look ahead too. Difficulties hit the Sahel in the early 90s, with violence in the north and political unrest and revolution resulted in deaths and political instability. Democracy, stability and economic growth eventually won the day, yet the recent return to violence has made many question if this was ever the recovery they thought they had achieved. Nevertheless, Mali’s people can be hopeful that their country will recover. The 12 months since their last independence day have been the some of the most difficult of Mali’s modern history. Again, democracy and stability prevailed. Of course the situation remains incredible fragile and complex. And although Mali’s resilience is difficult to explain, it is easy to observe.

By going a long way back, this week’s Track of The Week is a small symbolic way of illustrating not only the enduring and timeless strength of Mali’s music, but also of Mali itself.

 

Ali Farka Touré – Timbindy