Festival, Day 2

Mali 2008

Festival In The Desert, Day 2:

Issaka is our cook here at the Festival, too. Lucky us.

During the day, the mainstage is mostly quiet. But there is plenty to do. There are the artists' tents, where you might luck out and catch a private concert, there are camel races, traditional bands walking the grounds with speakers powered by a car battery, conferences and discussions about "Education in Mali" or "The Camel in the Sahara," etc. I wander by Vieux Farke Touré's tent and hear some music. I crawl inside. He's not there, but the music is still wonderful. Some of his band members, I presume.

Here's a sound file of it. There's a video, too, but the sound isn't as good.

Click here to play.

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The blond woman in the video is a semi-pro violinist from California. To my ear, she fits in beautifully. When I talk with her after, she is practically in tears for having had a dream come true.

(P.S. She gave me her email so I could send her the recording, but I lost it. If anyone out there knows her, have her contact me so I can send it to her.)

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The tents of Vieux Farke Touré and friends, where I heard the beautiful song above.

Below: Bassekou Kouyaté and Abdoulaye Diabaté are HUGE stars. They will each rock the house tonight. Unfortunately nothing is happening in their tent when I walk by.

Later in the afternoon, I meet Alfa, a young man from Bamako. He is standing outside a tent labeled "L'Assaliz". L'Assaliz is a young duo, Alfa is their manager. He is eager to trade email and cell numbers with a composer from Canada. He gives me a cassette. I tell him I don't own a cassette player, but he wants me to have it anyway. Up walks Raissa. I tell her what's been going on, and we both duck into the tent for a private concert.

L'Assaliz perform for Raissa and I in their tent.

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Click here to play.

Here's a clip. At the end of the tune, I ask them what their song is about, and they say "the children of Mali." and their coming to the aid of Mali, if my French serves me well. Any other translations out there?

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Click here to play.

Another tune from the duo

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L'Assaliz' casette, "Le Reveil" (The Awakening). Raissa notices the names of the duo: Booker T. and One Pac. We ask where the names come from. They reply they have been friends since they were little, and those have been their nicknames all along, so why change now?

These Dogon performers in traditional costume, parade about like a Memorial Day band. Here is what they sound like:

Click here to play.

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Just hangin' in the heat of the afternoon.

Below, a crowd gathers to watch the Tuareg dancers. Most of the crowd is Tuareg; some mounted on their steeds. (or is that word just for horses?) Before their environment and consequently, their society, began to erode, meetings like these were a regular occurrence and central to their lifestyle. There would be a vital exchange of culture, ideas, and political talk. That is one of the reasons the festival started, and why it is an important event to support.

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a traditional dance of the tuareg men

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Tuareg watching the dance.

Lone horsemen atop a dune. Can you get any cooler than this? I really don't think so. (That's the mainstage lighting rig at the bottom right.)

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After the dance, the Tuareg men show off their camels' speed. Check out this clip.

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Mohammed, Aura and a Toubab.

Aura takes a well-deserved break. Ain't she sweet?

The music of Night Two is the best of the three. Haira Arby sings up a storm. Sorry, Aretha. Keep practicing. Bassekou Kouyaté and his elctrified - and electrifying - ngoni band are followed by the uptempo Caribbean Sound of Abdoulaye Diabaté, singer and balophonist. I say Caribbean, but who got there first is anybody's guess. Whatever the case, it is humanly impossible to sit or stand still when his horn section takes it over the top. These guys are the big leagues. No standing around tuning for days while the audience gets restless. It's 1,2, the hell with 3, GO! And closing the night is a little group from Kidal called Tinariwen! They are wonderful, but a much lower energy than the previous two acts. It's past 3 when they finish their 45 minute set.

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Bassekou Kouyaté. Remember, a ngoni is basically a gourd and a stick with three or four strings, and in this case a pickup.

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Abdoulaye Diabaté is also the best-dressed dude at the Festival

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A photo of Day 2 schedule from the Info tent. Things are changing so fast, there are no printed programmes. Note the last minute surprise at the end: Tinariwen.

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Tinariwen, the Tuareg band from Kidal, founders of the Festival in the Desert, finish the night. At the end look for our Mahmoud, in a light-blue boubou stage-right, hanging out with his homies:

Tinariwen

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This has been a long, long day. One more day and night here and then on to... I'm not exactly sure what. I've been wondering what I would do with this post-festival week since I booked the trip. The other tour members are mostly heading home, so I'm basically on my own. I have researched a few ideas, but want to leave it to spontaneity. I feel like I'm watching a good movie. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

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