Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mali without Music?

Having lived in Mali, I can attest that music is at the heart of Malian culture. Whether it be in the back of a baché (public transport van), street corner wedding celebration, eating place, or any public gathering location, the incredible melodies played on traditional and Western-style instruments permeate the air. Many of its musicians, particularly those in the south, are multi-generational griots, dating back to times of the Malian kingdoms. Music is society's way of retelling history, celebrating events, sharing ones' woes, praises and testaments of love and whatever forms of expression one needs to communicate. 
According to a Public Radio International article I read yesterday, the very future of music in the northern part of Mali is in peril. Following a Tuareg revolt in the north, in March 2012 the government of the country was overthrown in a coup over displeasure of its perceived mishandling of the revolt. Since then, Ansar Dine, a group with reported links to al Qaeda has stepped in to take control over the northern portion of the country, seeking to impose a Sharia Islamic law over its inhabitants. According to this fundamentalist, extremist set of Islamic laws, any music besides devotional music is banned. While this is certainly an unpleasant shock to the everyday life of most citizens in this area, for its musicians, it means a loss of income. Instruments and amplifiers have been burned, and musicians have been threatened with amputation. Some musicians, such as the Tuareg (Tamasheq) group Terakaft have resorted to live outside of their homeland country. Unable to return to their beloved desert lands, these blues singers certainly have something to pine for.

For Mali and the world that has come to love the incredible music of this West African country, the loss of music here and its musicians would be a global tragedy.

See more paintings of Mali by Melissa Enderle at www.melissaenderle.com


Meera Rao said...

oh what a tragedy ! Music and art are just as natural as speaking and to think that one will not be allowed to sing is incredible injustice and terrorism! I hope world will pay attention to this -- I have not seen anything in the media!

I do love your paintings.

Melissa Enderle said...

Meera, I do share your hopes. I read about it on some news sites when reading using the iPad app FlipBoard, as well as from some Malians in Bamako (the capital). All depends on which news sites you pay attention to. Mali isn't as resource-rich as Libya or Iraq, so it doesn't seem as important to many countries. Yesterday I read that there is more talk to take more action, with an article comparing Mali to Afghanistan. Such a culturally-rich country - I sure hope they can squelch the hardliners before the country is ruined.