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Wednesday, October 24

Mali: no rhythm or reason as Islamist militants declare war on music in a country where music is akin to mineral wealth

Tinariwen threatened. Musicians have left the sonorous West African country in droves. Festival au Désert cancelled or moved on the road. While the north is now controlled by Salafists, the south is living under a military coup since March. Sad sad sad.

Tinariwen (c) Marie Planeille
The pickup halted in Kidal, the far-flung Malian desert town that is home to members of the Grammy award-winning band Tinariwen. Seven AK47-toting militiamen got out and marched to the family home of a local musician. He wasn't home, but the message delivered to his sister was chilling: "If you speak to him, tell him that if he ever shows his face in this town again, we'll cut off all the fingers he uses to play his guitar with."
The gang then removed guitars, amplifiers, speakers, microphones and a drum kit from the house, doused them with petrol, and set them ablaze. In northern Mali, religious war has been declared on music.
Even the legacy of Ali Farka Touré has been challenged in his home town.
The town of Niafunké just south west of Timbuktu, where Ali Farka Touré was mayor for many years, is now under Islamist control. "I know that if Ali were to awake from his tomb today," says Afel Bocoum, Touré's former sidekick and Albarn's partner on the 2002 Mali Music project, "he would just go straight back into it. He would die twice."
But some are fighting back with the only tools they have, music. The Festival au Désert will likely hit the road next spring for a festival tour. Some musicians have stayed in Mali, but fled south to the capital, Bamako, and they have started to raise their voices, too.

I don't give a fuck what they say," is Malian rapper Amkoullel's terse answer to a question about the Islamist music ban. "We won't let them get away with it. We don't need them to teach us how to be Muslims. We're a secular tolerant country, where everyone declares their religion according to their feeling. And in any case, they know that a Mali without music is an impossibility.

Read the full Guardian article here.

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