Jazz Gallery
Soul / Gospel & World gallery
Essential Listening
Gig Guide / News
Opinion / Music Talk
The Hi Fi Experience
Related services
Related Sites & Info
Staff Profiles
Guest Feedback
Contact M V Studio
Back to Home Page




Festival au Desert

Festival au Desert

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 away….

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 to peace.

*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

Day 2 - Basekou Kouyate @ the Festeival au Desert (click to go to this page)
Day 3 - Cheik Tidiane @ the Festeival au Desert (click to go to this page)





Click the sunset below to view more amazing photographs by Alice Mutasa...
Click the Festival au Desert logo to go to their official website...

www.placesandseasons.org.uk www.festival-au-desert.org

 Go back to the soul gallery.

[ Top ]