The Spirit of Mali is Music -The War Against Music and Culture In Mali

As it has been said “Music is for Life”, without music where would the world be? The late great Nigerian Fela Anikulapo Ransome Kuti declared “Music is a weapon”! A weapon so powerful that extremist are going to the extremes to stop it in Mali. Mali is one of those nations in the world whose ancient writings, manuscripts and music are very much part of the fabric of every Malian’s life and their global connection to the world. When you have the gift of literature and music use them wisely for too many have had to fight for these gifts and voice! All around the world at one point or the other the arts and particularly music and written works have been the focus of war and banishment for political, cultural and religious pursuits; yet too often we hear that the arts and music are just hobbies and not of any real value in its importance to our global livelihoods and our collective humanity. For those who don’t respect the arts and music as something priceless beyond any monetary value- at the very least I say do not go out of your way to destroy and disrespect it and just let it be! Music like the written word is for life and can never be stifled because the human spirit never dies and music and the power of words are solidly within our souls as producers, creators, receivers and consumers!

“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… READ MORE

The seizure of Timbuktu by a fractious group of separatist and Islamist rebels in northern Mali has raised fears for the fate of the legendary city’s ancient manuscripts and architectural treasures…Timbuktu, a cradle of Islamic learning and a thriving trade centre in its 16th-century heyday, was overrun Sunday by Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels…Witnesses said the Islamists then chased the Tuareg fighters from the city, increasing fears the accelerating violence since Mali’s government was overthrown in a coup could endanger Timbuktu’s rich archives and historic mosques…“Unique manuscripts have been conserved for centuries in Timbuktu, a scholarly city, a city of 333 saints, where practically every household is a heritage site, a library,” Hamady Bocoum, head of African research institute IFAN, told AFP…”I think there are serious risks to those manuscripts…Timbuktu is home to nearly 100,000 ancient manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century, preserved in family homes and private libraries under the care of religious scholars…It was also a renowned centre of Islamic scholarship, with manuscripts written in Arabic and Fulani by scholars of the ancient Mali empire, covering a range of subjects including Islam, history, astronomy, music, botany, genealogy and anatomy….READ MORE

The news has not been confirmed. We have seen images coming from Timbuktu, but for eight days we have not been able to reach our contacts in Timbuktu. Even a group of researchers from the Ahmed Baba Institute, which has allegedly been destroyed, are in Bamako. We have been able to talk to them, but they have no news about what happened in Timbuktu. We’ve seen the images that, of course, show some documents have been destroyed. But nobody — in terms of people who have worked there — [has] been able to go inside, have a look at the damage, and report anything. Even the SkyNews video of a journalist entering the center with somebody that has been presented as a guy who works at the Ahmed Baba Institute; actually, he is only a tourist guide…There is contrasting information. Yesterday, we read from the news that manuscripts had been burned. While this morning local news says that the bulk of the manuscripts have been taken out of the center. The situation is very confusing…If we have confirmation of the destruction of the manuscripts, it means that a huge fragment of West African history would have been wiped out. The Ahmed Baba Institute hosts — or at least it did host — at least 20,000 ancient manuscripts that, according to the most recent estimations, account for one-fifth of all the documents in the Timbuktu area. So, of course, if confirmed it would be a disaster…Only a few manuscripts have precise dates. Since many of them haven’t been studied properly in terms of paper and ink analysis, it’s not easy to date them correctly. But people claim that some of these manuscripts go back to the 14th and 15th centuries, even the 13th century. But those that are dated rarely go back further than the 17th [or] 18th century. Every kind of topic is preserved at the Ahmed Baba Institute — from local histories, global histories, [and] masterpieces of Islamic literature to documents in terms of legal documents, trade documents, and also private correspondences between rulers. The documentation is very diverse. Every kind of documentation you can imagine is represented there…READ MORE


Singer Fatoumata Diawara has gathered a group of more than 40 Malian musicians in Bamako to record a song calling for peace in face of the Islamist insurgence in the country…”The Malian people look to us,” the 30-year-old said earlier this week. “They have lost hope in politics. But music has always brought hope in Mali. Music has always been strong and spiritual, and has had a very important role in the country, so when it comes to the current situation, people are looking up to musicians for a sense of direction…”The song, Mali-ko, which translates as Peace, brings together artists including kora player Toumani Diabaté, guitarist and singer-songwriter Habib Koité and the great Oumou Sangaré….Diawara launched the song at a press conference in Bamako on Thursday as the battle for control of the north of the country appeared to be drawing nearer to the capital…”What is going on in Mali?” she sings. “Do we really want to kill each other? Do we really want to betray one another? Allow ourselves to be divided?…READ MORE

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