In response to the situation in Mali, Fatoumata Diawara has gathered over 40 of the country’s most renowned musicians to record a video and song calling for peace. The group collectively called 'Voices United for Mali' includes Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangare, Bassekou Kouyate, Vieux Farka Toure, Djelimady Tounkara, Toumani Diabate, Khaira Arby, Kasse Mady Diabate, Baba Salah, Afel Bocoum, Tiken Jah, Amkoullel and Habib Koite amongst many others. The track is called 'Mali-ko' (Peace / La Paix).
Here's a version with English sub-titles (though the picture's smaller).
From Tom Coghlan in the Times (£):
Khaira Arby says her voice was a gift from God. But it was in the name of the same God that hardline Islamist militants drove her from her home last year. “They’ve said that when they capture me they will cut out my tongue,” says the grande dame of Malian music, a woman in her early fifties known in her own country as “the Nightingale of the North”.
Waging war on music might rank as the bravest or stupidest strategic decision ever made in a country where it is omnipresent. But that’s what Mali’s answer to the Taleban did last August. “We do not want Satan’s music,” announced a spokesman for the Ansar Din (the Followers of God), a group allied to al-Qaeda. “In its place will be Koranic verses. Sharia [the law] demands this. What God commands must be done.”
And with that the musicians of one of the world’s poorest nations but richest musical cultures became outlaws across a swath of northern Mali seized by extremists. “I had to flee,” says Arby at her villa in the capital Bamako, nearly 450 miles away in the government-held south of the country. “I don’t know what these guys want,” she adds with a contemptuous wave of her hand.
After the militants took over an intolerant, ultra-conservative Wahhabi interpretation of Sharia followed in a country where a gentle tradition of mystical Sufi Islam had mingled with pre-Islamic animist traditions. Shrines and tombs in Timbuktu, the ancient Saharan seat of learning and a World Heritage site, were smashed with hammers and drills. Women failing to dress, as one local told me in exasperation, “like a ninja”, were beaten with camel hair whips. Human Rights Watch reported that there were at least eight public amputations of hand or foot for theft. An unmarried couple were stoned to death in front of an audience of hundreds.
Arby’s own music studio in Timbuktu was raided by the local religious police. “They destroyed my instruments — guitars, mixing equipment, the production studio,” she says, costing the loss at nearly £100,000....
At a press conference the singer Fatoumata Diawara says she believes the population was looking to Mali’s musicians for the moral strength that had been lacking in the country’s often corrupt political elite. “They have lost hope in politics,” she says. “But music has always brought hope in Mali.”...
In a slum near Bamako airport last Friday night hundreds of refugees from the north meet to dance and show solidarity at a concert by Baba Salaha, a Timbuktu-based guitarist. “We are people of the north and this is our night,” sings Salaha, who mixes the loping, lopsided rythms of Malian tradition with recognisably Western rock and funk influences. He sees nothing but power politics in the assault on Mali’s music. “This Satan stuff is a pretext,” he says. “It is an excuse to impose themselves. Music is the tradition of the north — in marriages, birth, the ceremony of circumcision (of adolescent boys). To forbid it is a kind of crime against humanity.”