News / Africa

Mali's Star Musicians Unite Against Islamists

Mali’s Stars Musicians Unite Against Islamistsi
January 29, 2013 8:37 PM
A trio of Mali’s biggest performers is on European tour to highlight the peril facing one of the country’s most popular exports.
Trio of country's biggest performers launch European tour to highlight the peril facing one of the Sahara’s most popular exports.
Henry Ridgwell
Sheltering from the rain in his London hotel room, Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate is a long way from his Bamako home. Casually plucking the strings of his ngoni – a West African ancestor of the banjo – his thoughts turn to his desert homeland.
"When you put on a concert now in Mali, al Qaida could plant bombs among lots of people... they could plant bombs there to cause an explosion," he says, explaining why Malian authorities subsequently banned all such events for three months.
Determined to offer the world a glimpse of the place beyond daily headlines of atrocity and unrest, though, Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba, recently held two performances in Britain as part of a broader European tour. Entitled "Sahara Soul," the shows saw Ngoni Ba perform alongside fellow Malian Touareg band "Tamikrest," from the country's Islamist-held north, and Sidi Toure, who hails from the recently, militarily liberated city of Gao.
"We're not here just to sing and play guitar and dance," says Tamikrest Percussionist Aghaly ag Mohamadim. "We are here to make sure people understand the suffering facing the Touareg people back home.”
Explaining that the Islamists who are battling to retain control of Mali’s north are not true Muslims, Kouyate articulates a sentiment shared by those with whom he shares the spotlight.
“[The Prophet] Muhammad himself invited an orchestra to his house to perform at a festival for his wife," he says. "But the jihadists have stopped all music. They are trying to ban television, to ban telephones, to ban diaries, cigarettes, liquor.”
Their collective artistic mission – to show the world that Mali is a diverse and tolerant place – is one in which Gao native and solo musician Sidi Toure maintains a personal stake.

“The instruments belonging to the orchestra of Gao were burned," says Toure, reflecting on recent events that have transformed his hometown. "There are no more instruments. There is no orchestra. There is nothing.”
But despite efforts to silence the sounds of Mali – whether by torching musical instruments or threatening concert goers – Kouyate says rebels are faced with a losing battle.

“If someone wants to stop Malian music, that’s like he wants to stop the heart of Mali," he says. "It’s not possible. You can’t stop Malian music. Music has an effect. It’s like a medicine.”
“Long live France, long live Francois Hollande,” he says, expressing gratitude for the military intervention and optimism that, after the tour, he will return to perform in the safety of the diverse, culturally vibrant Mali from which the inspiration for his music draws.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Exenon from: NSW. Australia
January 29, 2013 5:59 PM
Again terrorists are being sanitized with the quaint sobriquet of Islamist militants. Is this engendered by fear of fanatics with guns, using dysfunctional failures to become suicide bombers. There is nothing in the Quran that can relate to the tenets of these fanatics. Where in the Book does it say women should be bagged, neither to be seen or heard. Where is it stated that there should be massacres of Muslims? Indeed were they, the terrorists who murder the "faithful" on a daily basis, to read Sura 4 verse 93 wherein it lays out the special treatment held in store for those who kill the"faithful", then they would understand that as Kouyate says "They are not true Muslims".

by: Ray from: NJ
January 29, 2013 5:54 PM
I hope he is careful look what Muslims did to that young woman.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs