From Gaddafi guerrillas to Grammy winners
Despite widespread coverage of the Libyan and Tunisian uprisings, events in North Africa are otherwise neglected by the North American and European media. So, prompted by my recent post about the Berber psychedelic folk band Imanaren, Stephen 'who are the real Master Musicians?' Davis sends an email drawing attention to the uprising by armed Tuaregs in northern Mali. The Tuaregs are nomadic Berbers who are the majority inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa. Colonel Gaddafi's political machinations included fomenting unrest in North African nations to the south of Libya using conscripted Tuaregs. Following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, rebel Tuaregs armed with sophisticated Libyan weaponry have attacked towns in Mali's northern desert, with a rebel spokesman explaining “Our goal is to liberate our lands from Malian occupation”. And in breaking news, within the last few hours reports have come that an Army coup reacting against the Tuareg rebellion has seized control of Mali and ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure.
There are many music links to this path. Above is the great Malian singer and guitarist Ali Farka Touré who explored the common ground between Malian music and its progeny, the blues of the southern United States. Among Ali Farka Touré's classic albums is In the Heart of the Moon recorded with Kora player Toumani Diabaté in Bamako, Mali. A recent phenomenon has been the emergence of Tuareg rock led by Tinariwen, a Tuareg-Berber band formed in 1979 in a guerrilla training camp in Libya and based in Mali since in the 1990s. Tinariwen sing about the issues facing the Tuareg people and mix desert blues with political activism. There is a video here and the header and footer images are from their 2012 Grammy winning acoustic album Tassili which has spent much time in my CD player recently. The album was recorded in the Tassil N’Ajjer region of southern Algeria, an area which the band is familiar with from its days training with the Gaddafi regime - Algeria is starting to trend in diverse and sometimes dark ways.
Ethical troubadour Titi Robin has spoken out against "the economic, social and cultural order that reigns over the field of ‘world music’" and in comments on my Imanaren post reader mrG condemned how world music is "compartmentalized, shrinkwrapped and packaged for export". The colonisation of world music may be insidious but it seems inevitable. On Tassili, which received its Grammy for 'best world music album', Tinariwen are joined by guitarist Nels Cline of American alternative band Wilco, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band from New Orleans, and New York indie band TV on the Radio. That packaging for export is probably explained by Tinariwen combining their "collective" status and agitprop credentials with a recording contract with V2 Music which is owned by Universal Music, the world's largest record company and home to André Rieu and other globally marketed acts. So this path comes full circle and returns to my Imanaren post, which cautioned against the Arab Spring being followed by an autumn of Western digital culture in which the emergent democracies become no more than technology enabled markets for global brands.
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