an image to enlarge.
After a small technical hitch the music begins with
traditional Touareg bands from Mali and Niger. Impressive performances
are delivered in particular by Terakaft; Group Folklorique Niafunké
and Rhissa Ag Wanagli…. Despite having previously listened
to a certain amount of Touareg music before my trip, nothing has
quite prepared me for the visual impact of traditional Touareg dancing;
a graceful sinewy undulating movement that seems to start from the
neck and flows through the body down to the hips and feet, accompanied
by exquisitely precise, delicately flowing hand gestures.
The Touareg musicians create a powerful visual presence on-stage,
the men mostly in full traditional dress, often with only their
eyes showing; dances involving vicious looking swords twirled around
their heads are executed with equal style as when they are wielding
electric guitars….. The women are the soul of grace and elegance;
swathed in beautiful robes; henna decorations on hands and arms;
elaborate jewellery and headdresses, and a strong, confident self-possessed
presence both on stage and off…. Nowhere is this embodied
more strongly as when Tartit take to the stage; led by 5 women,
who mainly sit on stage playing cyclic rythms on tinde drums; their
performance is accomplished and joyful. Their lead singer, Fadimata
Walett Oumar, a superstar in her own right and role model for many
young Malians appears on stage throughout the festival with several
other bands, including Koudede from Niger, clearly enjoying the
opportunities for musical collaboration that the festival provides.
Bassekou Kouyaté delivers yet another of his passionate,
polished performances; this is now the third time I have seen him
perform in as many different countries, yet he seems to get better
every time, and his band even more slick and tight. The evening
is rounded off with a tribute to Ali Farka Touré, led by
Afel Boucum, and including performances by Vieux Farka Touré,
Haira Arby and Babah Salah.
© Alice Mutasa