Day one (introduction)
All Festival au Desert photography
and reports by Alice Mutasa.
© Alice Mutasa
The familiar storming bass lines of 'Amassakoul
N' Tenere' ring out across the sand dunes as Tinariwen take to
the stage in full Touareg robes & shesh*
headdress... The now legendary poet guitarists are greeted with
rapturous excitement by the audience, as their desert-rebel beats
echo through the star-filled Sahara night sky.... Despite Tinariwen’s
significant worldwide success, there is nothing quite like hearing
them playing on ‘home ground’, to an audience that
knows the lyrics to all the songs, and feels the passion behind
them in a way that European audiences probably never could….
Tinariwen closed the first day of this years 'Festival au Desert'
in Mali, following a whirlwind opening concert consisting of previews
of many of the great Malian musicians who are to play throughout
the weekend, such as Bassekou Kouyaté; Tartit; Haira Arby
and Habib Koité. Longer performances took place in the
evening, including the Sept Etoiles de Dire; Groupe Folklorique
Bellafarandi and the phenomenal Fantani Touré, sporting
a wild red headscarf, and whose energy and presence blew the crowd
In response to the perceived ‘security concerns’
of certain foreign governments, it was decided to move the 10th
edition of the Festival from its usual site near Essakane to just
outside Timbuktu. This seemed a fitting venue however, given that
Timbuktu is celebrating its own 1000 year anniversary this year,
and the crowds are swelled by proud and excited locals who have
walked out from the town each day to experience the festival.
Despite not being several hours drive into the desert, this is
still very much the Sahara however; there is sand everywhere,
as far as the eye can see, and it takes a while to get used to
my feet sinking ankle deep into the pale soft dunes that curve
up and down to the horizon, and which become patterned with tiny
bird footprints in the early morning light….
When we arrive on Thursday afternoon the final touches are being
put to the main stage, and there is an air of expectancy as groups
of elegant looking Touaregs on their camels appear from over the
top of every sand dune, mingling with tourists arriving in 4 x
4’s and Malians from every corner of the country.
Welcoming speeches at the opening ceremony are given by the Mayor
of the City and the Minister of Culture, Hon. Mohamed el Moctar.
Their heartfelt emphasis on the key themes of the Festival –
peace, co-operation, security - are echoed time and again throughout
the Festival, and serve as a reminder of the Festival’s
roots, in the “Flamme de la Paix” (Flame of Peace)
ceremony held at the end of the Touareg rebellion in 1996, where
more than 3000 firearms were burned and transformed into a monument
*Tuareg headdress worn by men,
consisting of a long piece of coloured cloth wrapped around the
head, generally leaving only the eyes showing.
Click an image for
individual festival photographs & reports. Days 2-3
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