Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali

Freemuse are pleased to announce the publication of our first book, ‘Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali’, which is launched in a digital and on-demand paperback edition.

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“One of the few positives to come out of the occupation of the northern two-thirds of Mali by armed jihadist groups in 2012 was the informed analysis of Andy Morgan. Now his writing on the crisis has grown into a book. His final chapter is required reading, a tour de force of both profound humanity and intellectual clarity.” NIGEL WILLIAMSON, Journalist, Songlines, UK. [5/5 stars]

“Andy Morgan brings his skills as a journalist combined with deep insight gained as manager of Tinariwen to sieve through the shifting sands of Saharan culture in this fine book.”  IAN BIRRELL, Daily Mail & founder of Africa Express, UK

“Does a wonderful job of not only detailing what happened during that awful period, but explaining why it did, and how it could easily happen again if things don’t change.” RICHARD MARCUS, Blogcritics, UK

“Essential reading for anyone who has been touched by Saharan music. It gives a clear and gripping picture of what it’s like to live through the chaos of a 21st century conflict … A really valuable piece of work.”  JUSTIN ADAMS, Guitarist, UK

“Andy takes you on a clear and considered journey through the complexities of modern Mali. A must read for all those interested in the culture of West Africa.” DAMON ALBARN, Musician, UK

“Andy Morgan has written a book about the Tuareg people that brings us up close with them in their moments of horror and disgust during the reign of the jihadists in northern Mali.” BARBARA WORLEY, Senior Lecturer of Anthropology at University of Massachussetts, Boston, USA

“A wonderful, sad and powerful read! I’m emotionally spent! This goes far further than an examination of the effect on musical life in Mali. It reaches into all aspects of Malian life, history and future. Most powerful though are the personal stories. This is an important record.”  ANN MACKEIGAN, Executive Producer, CBC Music, Canada

“The book is brilliant. Andy Morgan has solid experience, partly inside the music industry, not least as manager of Tinariwen. On top of that he’s a writer who knows his stuff backwards. It’s a treat to be introduced to the whole conflict in such a competent way and get first hand experience of what happens when the prophecy of The Doors is fulfilled.”  TORBEN HOLLEUFER, Journalist, Gaffa magazine, Denmark.

“Many thanks for this magnificent work. Even though it’s in English, I’ve almost read it all, it’s so well written and accessible.”  OUSMANE DIARRA, Author, Mali

“An absolutely fantastic read and an invaluable primer on the volatile Malian situation of the last years. ” CHRIS ECKMAN, Musician and Producer (Dirt Music, Tamikrest), Slovenia

“Our musician was on his way to a wedding in a village outside Gao, his car laden with instruments and equipment. At the checkpoint he was ordered to step down from his car by a MUJAO militiaman who then proceeded to search it. All the instruments are taken out and piled up by the side of the road; guitars, teherdent, amps, speakers, calabashes. The pile was doused in petrol and set alight. The musician was too scared to shout out, or cry, or flee. There were guns everywhere. He just stood and watched as his livelihood went up in flames. If he made a scene or showed any emotion, he knew that his own life would be in danger.”


  “We don’t want Satan’s music!” — Scenes of musical life under Shari’a Law
  Music in the red zone — The Festival in the Desert and the advance of Islamism in the north
  “We have come to teach you the true faith” — Vandalism and destruction along the great fault line
  Tisrawt — The epic tale of a theatre company from northern Mali

Support to musicians
The income from sales of this book will support Freemuse in its work to help musicians who suffer persecution, discrimination or imprisonment around the world.

For more information, press enquiries and review copies, please contact:



Nigel Williamson’s review of ‘Music, Culture & Conflict in Mali’ – SONGLINES, September 2013

September 3, 2013

It was a small consolation, but one of the few positives to come out of the occupation of the northern two-thirds of Mali by armed jihadist groups in 2012 was the informed analysis of Andy Morgan. At the height of the crisis, Morgan seemed ubiquitous in the western media – on radio, television and in print. While talking heads from American foreign policy institutes revealed that there’s nothing more ignorant than a wonk pontificating about places they’ve never been, Morgan, as the former manager of Tinariwen turned acclaimed writer, was able to offered a rare combination of inside knowledge and journalistic objectivity, informed by a deep and genuine love for Mali, its people and its music.

Now his writing on the crisis has grown into a book (originally intended as a pamphlet). Morgan details the background and context to the Salafist takeover of an area larger than the combined territories of France and the UK. He untangles the complex web of the different groups involved, and explains how the Tuareg liberationist movement MNLA was hijacked by the Islamist militia Ansar ud-Dine. His political analysis is detailed and comprehensive, tracing how the conflict had its roots in fifty years of Tuareg rebellions, as well as the legacy of events such as  the Algerian civil war of the 1990s and the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya.

But, as you would expect from a publication commissioned by Freemuse, the campaigning organisation dedicated to freedom of musical expression around the world, the main tune of the book is the impact of the crisis on Malian culture. Morgan’s sharp analysis is supported by plenty of first-hand evidence, including accounts of how the music ban was brutally applied under shari’a law. There are also interviews with  Bassekou Kouyate,Vieux Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate, Rokia Traore and members of  the Tuareg bands Terakaft, Tartit and Tinariwen.

His final chapter is required reading, a tour de force of both profound humanity and intellectual clarity, as he describes how even after the jihadists were expelled in early 2013, fear and paranoia still stalk northern Mali. But his ultimate message is one of cautious hope, as he sees Malian cultural life emerging from the puritanical, doctrinaire war waged upon it ”with a greater sense of defiance and honed purpose.”

Nigel Williamson

(c) Nigel Williamson / Songlines 2013

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