Radio report from a music catastrophe area: The al-Qaida-linked militants in northern Mali have banned music of any kind, even cellphone ringtones, and have also put an end to the ‘Festival in the Desert’, which had been held for the past decade near Timbuktu. The festival will now transform into a travelling caravan of artists and a festival in Burkina Faso.
Here’s an update from NPR, All Things Considered, which was broadcasted on 8 January 2013:
“We are really sad, because we started to build something very important for Timbuktu, for Mali,” festival organiser Manny Ansar told NPR.
Manny Ansar is from a family of nomadic herders who roam the vast dunes north of the city. Even though he’s been threatened with his life if he goes back, he says he hasn’t given up. He’s still organizing the festival, but at a different venue, with a different name: the Festival in Exile. It will be a caravan of artists who travel and perform through West Africa, culminating in a three-day event in Burkina Faso.
“We can’t fight with gun against them. I don’t want war at all,” Ansar says. “For me, our only way to fight is by culture, is by music.”
Music is at the heart of life in Mali, intrinsically connected to everything — celebrations, commemorations. History is told through songs. For Ansar, music in Mali holds too much power to ever be silenced.
“Music really has a special place in Malian society. Our daily life has music everywhere,” he says. “It’s more power than law. It’s a kind of social law, sometime more strong than the political or social law.”