Monday, January 10, 2011

Night Three in Timbuktu

Incredible joy, pride and strength in Essakane, in Timbuktu, and in the Touareg filled the crowd and the Festival organizers. Their months of work and worry had come to fruition with absolutely no problems or incidents. Against huge odds, this cultural event remains vibrant and alive, and the large turnout makes that clear to the world. This is not a region of kidnappers, terrorists and bandits. This is a place with a huge energized cultural heritage of music, poetry and art.

At 2:30AM, the final group, Amanar from Kidal, took the stage. It is clear that the music of Kidal, home to the legendary Tinariwen, has evolved to an upbeat and freer feel. Outside influence is obvious with the addition of keyboards and several female backup singers. But, their songs are still based on traditional motifs, just at a faster tempo and with improvisational passages interspersed among the vocal call-and-response.

Amanar from Kidal!. Young guys who sing to defend the colors of their region, and to demonstrate that the desert is not a zone for terrorism. They play a dance music, not a trance music. Hamaya al-Ansari, Manny aq-Hamaya, Mohamed Ali al-Ansar, Almoustapha aq-Hamaya, and many others made up tonight's group. Everybody was having fun. About 1,500 people lingered in the sand in front of the stage, all dancing together. All races, nationality, ages, and sexes swaying in the sensuous dance of Takamba, updated and sped up to the modern age. This music is not a static style, but a dynamic in time and space.

But the highpoint of the entire 3-day festival occured just before Amanar when the queen of Malian female vocalists, Oumou Sangare performed.  With her strong band and clear voice she rocked the crowd.  When singing Yeila (a request shouted out of the audience), the crowd cheered and danced wildly. Oumou called out to the audience asking from which countries the throng had come.  Canada, Norway, France, America, Bamako, Sikasso. Hands sprang up all around. A guy in Dogon style clothes (who had actually shouted the request) jumped onto the stage at the call for Mopti and danced with Oumou!  Well, security showed up soon enough, but he had a great time nonetheless and really just wanted to show his dance moves to this amazing singer and the crowd.  The band instrumentation was:
Jackie Bey from Sikasso on peul ngoni (5 string),
Diabate Mamadou on lead guitar,
Chegouma Diabate on djembe,
Secouba Diiabate on bass (unbeleivable bass solo from that guy!),
Also a flute and two dancers/backup singers. (One of them, Awah Dembele, got a big cheer. Dembele is a local name here plus she can really shake that booty!)

Then Oumou calls out Babah Salah to the stage.  Babah rips a solo that blows everyone away! Takamba rythmn. Every one swaying and dancing in a truly incredible scene! This ain't no red zone. This is a scorching cross cultural apex.

Babah had played a set earlier.  He had blown the place apart then too!!
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