As of Jan. 15, 2013, Canada is sending a cargo plane to help the French offensive in Mali. The situation in Mali is complex and the conflict seems to shift every day. A recent CBC News article answers some basic questions many of us have about what's going on in Mali; in a nutshell: who started it, and what's it all about?
It also seems timely to draw attention to a CBC Music post from early December (below) about the situation facing musicians in Mali. It's probably a safe assumption, at this point in time, to say that the situation has not improved.
Ali Farka Touré. Tinariwen. Djelimady Tounkara. Rokia Traoré. Amadou & Mariam. The list of great Malian musicians goes on and on. So it's not a very long limb to go out on to say that Mali, of all the musically rich African nations, has to be considered one of the continent's leaders in producing creative musicians — if not the leader.
And that makes it all the more difficult to know that in northern Mali there is a music ban, imposed in August by hardline Islamist militias. What does that mean to musicians? To use one chilling example, singer Khaira Arby's instruments were destroyed in her home, and, as this report states, "They told my neighbours that if they ever caught me, they would cut my tongue out."
Needless to say, Arby, along with many other Malian musicians, is no longer in northern Mali. Most have gone south, or to other parts of the world.
The gist of the ban is that, except for music accompanying Koranic verses, any form of music is a no-go. You can just imagine the impact in a place where music accompanies every activity, from daily life chores to ceremonies marking important occasions. It's the soul of the place.
One of the many repercussions of the ban is that the world-famous Festival au Desert, normally held in Mali every January, is being held elsewhere. Actually, many elsewheres, since, as the festival states on its website, "Despite our present 'exiled' status from Timbuktu, in proud nomadic tradition, we will embark on a 2013 caravan of artists, fans and festivals uniting for Peace, Tolerance and Human Dignity." The tour begins in February 2013 in Mauritania.
Manny Ansar, the festival's director, and journalist Andy Morgan (who has written for CBC Music in the past) talked to Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio One's Q about the situation.
You can hear that interview here. One small caveat, it is difficult at times to understand Ansar, who was speaking from Bamako, but Morgan is clear as a bell, and the interview is well worth listening to.
PLAYListen to Jian Ghomeshi's interview with Festival au Desert director Manny Ansar and journalist Andy Morgan about the current situation for Malian musicians during the music ban.
CBC News: Mali's musicians defiant in face of music ban
Devil’s music, from the Mississippi Delta to northern Mali
Khaira Arby talks music and politics, shares exclusive new songs
Bombino talks about the Touareg uprising in the Sahara
JeConte, Vieux Farka Touré and blues for peace in Mali
Tinariwen evolves from cassettes to The Colbert Report
Music Freedom Day: What price freedom?
Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate is the Jimi Hendrix of the ngoni
African Guitar Gods: Djelimady Tounkara, transposing tradition
Washington Post photo gallery: In Mali, musicians flee south
BBC: Blues for Mali as Ali Farka Toure's music is banned
on Dec 11, 2012