If you've been paying attention the news recently, you've no doubt heard about Mali, the West African nation home of the fabled Timbuktu, which has been overrun by Al Qaeda. As in other fundamentalist Islamic controlled areas, Al Qaeda is waging a war on the populace of Mali, including barbaric public amputations of hands and feet for theft, as well as a culture war, with all music outlawed, save for Quranic chants.
Mali has a rich musical history. Its geographical and historical positioning has placed it at the cultural crossroads of West Africa, but its vibrant music scene - once a way of life - has now been completely choked off. According to the Washington Post:
So, while we stray away from political statements on this blog (we are, after all, dedicated to music) I urge you to take a moment or two this week and listen to music from Mali. And, in so doing, send your thoughts/prayers/wishes to the people struggling over there. If fundamentalists wish to kill music in Mali, then we can make it live on elsewhere until this senselessness is driven away.
The place to start is with the iconic Ali Farka Touré, perhaps the most iconic musician of Mali in the 20th century. Touré mashed traditional Malian music with the blues, creating a hypnotizing, emotional catalog which earned him a spot as one of Rolling Stone's greatest 100 guitarists of all time.
Vieux Farka Touré, Ali's second son, takes his father's records and explodes the sound. While Ali's music has an unmistakably roots feel to it, as if you were listening to the bones of the blues, Vieux incorporates electric guitars that riff through with dexterity and precision, earning him the nickname "Jimi Hendrix of the Sahara," as well as a collaboration with Dave Matthews.
Perhaps my favorite group though is Tinariwen, a group of Tuareg musicians who collaborated with Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio on their album Tassili. However, if you're starting somewhere with Tinariwen, I urge you to check out 2007's Aman Iman: Water is Life.
Music is life in Mali. Keep it alive here, if they can't keep it alive there.