Mali: Rose Skelton reports from Bamako: Can musical Mali play on?



Rose Skelton reports from Bamako:
Can musical Mali play on?

Islamism is on the march and threatening to wipe out the country’s cultural heritage, wrote freelance journalist Rose Skelton in the British newspaper The Independent on 18 August 2012.

Malian artists have exported their music with more success than perhaps any other country in sub-Saharan Africa. And Malian music has not only been exported across the world, it has helped bring the world to Mali. Music has been an integral part of life for generations, the tolerant form of Islam practised by the majority of its population offers no objection to such a celebration.

However, in Mali’s northern desert, this is no longer the case. Following a military coup in March, northern Mali has been overrun by al-Qa’ida-linked Ansar Dine militants and other hard-line Islamic groups which hijacked a decades-long rebellion by ethnic Touareg rebels. In the north, extremists violently impose a strict form of Islam, which has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee, has seen sacred shrines in Timbuktu attacked for being “un-Islamic”, and now threatens the country’s rich musical history.

Pheno S, a young rapper in Gao, told Rose Skelton that he can no longer work because of the rebellion. “Please don’t forget us,” he told her over the phone, with desperation in his voice. Like many in Mali, Pheno is hoping for foreign intervention. As scores of musicians consider leaving the country, many believe it would be a tragedy for one of the world’s great musical nations, and the final nail in the coffin for its tourism industry.

Rose Skelton is a Dakar-based freelance journalist and photographer specialising in West African music. She wrote Music Freedom Report no. 1: Côte d’Ivoire, which was published on 3 March 2012.









Read the article

The Independent – 18 August 2012:

‘Can musical Mali play on?’


AFP – 23 August 2012:

‘North Mali Islamists ban secular music on radio’

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