As reported last time, there is plenty of music going being played publically in Malian cities, especially Bamako, despite a State of Emergency. But the impression is deceptive. Crowds at nightclubs are thin. There are almost no foreign visitors to support clubs, festivals and concerts.
While street weddings are on, the families who sponsor them have less to spend, and are more and more inclined to cut costs by hiring lower-rung artists, often not griots as they would have been in the past, and there is less money changing hands. For musicians, there is hardly any point in recording, unless you are one of the lucky few to have an international career. Cellphone technology has made swapping music files so easy that even the pirates who used to undermine artistic careers with cheap cassettes and CDs have a hard time making sales.
In January and February, I made my fifth visit to Bamako, Mali. It was the first time back in ten years, and I was there with Sean Barlow to research new programs for Afropop Worldwide. We were especially interested to see how musicians’ lives had been affected in the aftermath of tumultuous events in 2012 and 2013 – namely, a rebellion in the north, eight months of sharia law under which music was banned in northern cities like Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, a coup d’etat in Bamako, French military action to restore the nation’s sovereignty, and fraught elections bringing a new, fragile civilian government to power.
Date: March 5, 2011 Venue: Bell House (Brooklyn, NY)
Concert review and photos by Stephanie Keith
Khaira Arby’s set at the Bell House in Brooklyn started as a praise song to Allah. The first line to the Koran “Bismillalla Allah il Rahman il Rahim”…..reverberated up to the rafters. Arby is paying homage to the female singers of Mali who were historically only allowed to sing religious songs.
Afropop’s Matt Payne asks the burning question on everyone’s mind: What is Afropop? Filmed and edited by Nova Ami. Thanks to Erich Woodrum and Carla Deamant!
International icon and Malian singer Salif Keita performs at Central Park SummerStage June 20, 2010. Afropop’s Banning Eyre catches up with him backstage and chats with musical wiz kid Toumani Diabate, son of Abdoulaye Diabate. A must see for music lovers!