Andy Morgan, expert on Malian and Sarahan music, and former manager of Touareg group Tinariwen, has released ‘Music, Culture & Conflict in Mali’, a new book examining the effect of Mali’s ten-month occupation by armed Islamist militia on the culture and music of the country. The book is also the first to be published by the international freedom of musical expression organisation, Freemuse.
The inconclusive military coup of March 2012 ousted the government and left a power vacuum which Touareg rebels in the North seized upon to declare their independence from the Malian state. Al-Qaeda allies quickly capitalised on this political instability, taking control of the North and imposing a strict form of Islamic law on to the region. These Islamist militia groups took particular objection to what they considered ‘idolatrous’ local religious practices, destroying the shrines of Timbuktu’s mosques, recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Mali’s rich musical culture was suppressed by laws which banned any form of ‘Western’ music, which in practice extended to local music, ringtones, and anything that was not chanted Qu’ranic verse.
Andy Morgan’s long career working with the musicians of the Saraha means he is uniquely placed to guide the reader through the complex political and cultural changes of the region, sensitive to the wounds that are still fresh for most Malians. Having met Tinariwen in the Saraha in 2001, he went on to manage the group and helped bring them global success, as well as organising Mali’s famous Festival in the Desert in its early years.
Told as a series of vivid vignettes on the changing lives of everyday Malians, the book gives an arresting impression of the turbulent changes that have left a lasting impact on much of Mali’s cultural heritage. Andy’s deep love for the region’s music, and compassion for all those affected by the occupation makes him an astute and passionate guide through one of the most volatile periods of Mali’s recent history.
“Essential reading for anyone who has been touched by Saharan music. It gives a clear and gripping picture of what it’s like to live through the chaos of a 21st century conflict…A really valuable piece of work.”
JUSTIN ADAMS, Guitarist, UK
“An absolutely fantastic read and an invaluable primer on the volatile Malian situation of the last years.”
CHRIS ECKMAN, Musician and Producer (Dirt Music, Tamikrest), Slovenia