Festival in the Desert- Music Ban

For those of you unfamiliar with the Festival au Désert (festival in the Desert), it is an annual concert in Mali showcasing traditional Tuareg music as well as music from around the region and the world.  It has been made famous by such international stars as Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabaté, Rokia Traoré and Tinariwen who's played with the Rolling Stones.

Photograph: Jon Hrusa/EPA

The festival has been a great outlet not only for Malian musicians, but for musicians from the whole region. More important, however, is the cultural role music plays in the lives of people. Because of unrest in the area the festival has been forced out of Mali and two-thirds of the country, which is under Islamic rebel control, is now living under a ban of music.

It's difficult for us to understand exactly what that means, or how that would effect our lives. Stop and think for a moment: What role does music play in your life? Surely you could go a day or two, maybe a week without noticing, but for most of us music is an integral part of how we gauge, manage and relate our emotions. Think about those changes of emotion and how music plays a role; how your walk changes when a tune comes on that makes you inadvertently creak a smile out of the corner of your mouth and you catch yourself striding to the beat, or when your feeling melancholy and you just want the music to cover you like a heavy blue blanket so you can smoother yourself in it, or when you just want to dance and scream and let the rhythm take control. Think about weddings, parties, dinners... I mean the list goes on and on. Now imagine if your entire history we're related through music. You learned about your grandparents through songs, about your ancestors and the people you call your tribe. What if everything you were taught was passed on through music?
"Music is important as a daily event. It's not just a business, for it's through our music that we know history and our own identity. Our elders gave us lessons through music. It's through music that we declare love and get married – and we criticise and make comments on the people around us." Manny Ansar- Director of Festival au Désert
Imagine loosing all that.

This year, the 13th annual Festival au Désert will be held in Bourkino-Faso, in exile. Hate, intolerance, war and the evils of our time should never stop the music from playing.

If you didn't know about the festival, look into it. I hope you can one day go. If your unfamiliar with any of the musicians I have mentioned, look them up and try them out on iTunes or Spotify, and if nothing else, just remember the role music, and art plays in our lives. It's easy to forget until one day it's suddenly taken away.

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