When I heard yesterday’s “BBC Africa” interview with world-famous singer/musician Fatoumata Diawara, I was inspired not only by her music but by her sense of purpose and commitment to the people of Mali.  Fatoumata, born in the Cote d’Ivoire to Malian parents in 1982, presently resides in France. The guitarist/ singer blends the Wassalou traditions of Southern Mali with international influences.


Timbuktu is a Sahara desert town, perhaps most associated with Mali, and was at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and hosts some of the greatest libraries of Islamic manuscripts in the world as well as ancient Sufi Muslim Shrines.  Islamic extremists recently captured much of northern Mali, destroyed Sufi Muslim shrines, torched manuscripts, imposed the veil, and banned music.


Music has always been at the heart of the Mali soul. Typically, at this time of year, artists would be preparing for the “Festival in the Desert” concert in the Sahara,  near Timbuktu. The fact that one of Mali’s most celebrated blues musicians is Ali Farka Toure has made the music prohibition a ban on life.


To combat the death of fanaticism and celebrate the gift of life, Fatoumata Diawara has created Voices United for Mali, a supergroup of 40 Malian musicians to orchestrate peace. Among the 40 musicians are Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangare, Bassekou Kouyate, Vieux Farka Toure, and Toumani Diabate. The song is “Mali-ko” “Peace.”


Says Fatoumata, “The Malian people look to us. 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.”


To capture the heart, mind, and soul of Mali music, please listen to Voices United for Mali‘Mali-ko’ (Peace / La Paix);



By, Susan Sacirbey


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PHOTO:  Courtesy of BBC Africa