Posted in African Blues, Music, Politics, Songs of the Resistance

A Soundtrack for the Resistance – (3) Ain’t Gonna Study War, part 1

These days, I hardly know where to begin. Every time I pick up the paper we’re either dropping serious tonnage on our despised-country-of-the-moment or threatening to send in the troops, even if the enemy has weapons trained on its neighbor to the south. Bombing the shit out of this or that country does not solve the problem. The Syrian government was using the runways the US neglected to target in its “that’ll show ’em” bombing of its base. I’m not saying using chemical warfare against your own people is appropriate. All I’m suggesting is that escalation of one sort or another is often the result. Putin has no qualms about chemical weapons and neither does Assad. All that to divert attention from the probe into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Yeah, sure, why not. 45 would stoop to that and so would his staff.

What are we going to do to North Korea, while they’ve got their missiles trained on Seoul, by the way? Or Afghanistan, with that bigger-than-your-dick bomb we dropped on their caves? Is that to say we can do the same to North Korea? You really want WWIII? We’re starting to step on some nuclear-armed toes at this point. Is it really government by four-star general or by Goldman Sachs now? Are those the only options on the table?

Oh, wait, excuse me while we shift the conversation once again to the second doomed attempt to wipe out Obamacare, so the Republicans can get around to cutting taxes some more. But, don’t worry. We have plenty of bombs left and that’s not even counting the troops.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately with themes of war on one level or another. Unlike similar music played in the 1960s, we’re one with the world these days. What happens on one side of the world gets passed around through social media and we end up hearing it – or hearing all about it. For example, the West African country of Mali underwent a coup, followed by a take-over of the northern part of the country by Islamic extremists in 2012. I just saw a film based on that (Timbuktu), in which the lives of the residents of Timbuktu in Mali are overturned by a group of violent religious extremists. No music, no dancing, women covered, Sharia law.

But, you know what? Mike Pence is a fundamentalist, too, just from a different religion. As I watched the film, I could – almost – see the same happening if Christian fundamentalists took over a part of this country. France and the United Nations eventually drove the extremists out (for the most part), but not until a bucketload of misery was poured onto the population there. My point? Trump’s “Islamic extremists” are far more brutal and murderous towards other Muslims than they are towards countries in Europe or the US. Let’s not forget who started this shit parade in the first place – good ol’ boy George W. Bush with his invasion of of Iraq in 2003. Want to find out who created ISIS and its attendant brutality? Just look in the mirror.

This is a gorgeous arrangement, performed in France since Mali was a dangerous place for musicians during those days. This is a lament, for ancient city of Timbuktu and the people forced to live there. This was partially a civil war, which gave the extremists just the foothold they needed. Actions have consequences and it’s often the people who pay the price. The video is accompanied by excerpts of the film. I’ll provide a translation and a trailer, subtitled in English. If you want to see the perfect combination of idiocy and cruelty, watch this film. It’s available on Amazon. Other places too, I’m sure.

Timbuktu Fasso (Fatoumata Diawara & Amine Bouhafa)

Timbuktu Fasso
Timbuktu, my country
Ko o ye ne faso ye

it’s my country
N balimalu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My friends, Timbuktu is my country
Mmm ko o ye ne faso ye
it’s my country
Sinjilu, Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my country
Ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la Ala
The children are crying
Allabadenya, badenya dugu ye Tonbuktu ye
My brothers and sisters, our land is Timbuktu
Sinjiya, Sinjiya dugu ye Maliba ye
My brothers and sisters, our land is the great Mali
Yankalu yan ye ne faso ye
People here, this is my country
Oo booo boo ooooo booo boo ooo
Ko o ye ne faso ye
it’s my country
N balimalu Maliba ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, the great Mali is my country
Aw bɛ kasi la mun na
You are in tears, why
Denmisɛnnu bɛ ka if the mun na
Children are crying, why
Aw bɛ kasi la mun na
You are in tears, why
Kamalennu bɛ kasi la
Young people are crying
Maliba -don dɔ be se –
The great Mali one day vaincrako yan ye ne faso ye
This is my country
NbanbaN Sinjilu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my country
Ko siniɲɛsigi jɔrɔ from bɛ an na
The worry of the future is in us
N ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la yen
Children are crying out there
Denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi yen mun na
The children are crying over there, why?
Aw ye hami na mun na yen
You’re worried, why out there?
Aw kana kasi la Ala
Do not be crying
AllaMaliba don dɔ – bɛ se –
The great Mali will someday defeat
Aw bɛ – aw bɛ kasi la yen mun na yen
You are – you are crying out there why out there
Al-you are in tears there why Allan ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi yen Ala
Children are crying over there AllaMaliba n ko don dɛ bɛ se
The great Mali, I say, will one day defeat.

Here’s the trailer to the actual film (warning – it’s depressing).

And don’t think it couldn’t happen here, with our own Christian Taliban.

I can’t stop listening to this. It’s so haunting and beautiful. An African singer, accompanied by a string section comprised of European musicians, all lamenting in unison. Why do we think guns and bombs will solve anything?

#songsoftheresistance

Posted in African Blues, Folk and Blues, Music

NOW What Is She Listening To?

I’ve been on this African blues kick for the last year or so, particularly the popular music of Mali in Western Africa. Unfortunately, it’s gained a certain notoriety of late, with al Qaeda Islamist militants over-running the north of the country and then threatening the south. France has intervened (thank God it’s not us this time) and has sent the militants packing, at least for a little while.

Mali has an extremely musical culture. It was raided extensively for slaves in the early days and a lot of them were taken to the Americas. These transplanted Africans lost their home and their culture, but bestowed on this hemisphere some of the best music in the world. Now isn’t that gratitude for being kidnapped and treated like a sub-human animal? It makes me sick.

I love the music, primarily because its connection to American music like the blues. It’s amazing that way. Slaves were shipped to the Americas, who gave us our national music, who then influenced the musicians in Mali. Now that’s a cross-Atlantic trade I approve of.

Given all this media furor over Mali, I’ve had the chance to find more musicians and more music. When the Islamists rolled in, they banned music (among other things). Musicians were arrested and threatened with amputation of their fingers if they played music anywhere. What a horrible thing to do. France, at least, has got the music going again although who knows what’s going to happen over the long term?

If you’re game, here’s an example of some of the stuff I’m talking about. The first, Lulla, is from a band from the north of Mali called Tinariwen (plural of “desert”). It’s middle eastern and bluesy all at the same time. Amazing.

These guys have had a very hard life, but their music is absolutely incredible. Here’s a description of what I mean by hard:

The thirty-year musical and social history of Tinariwen is a fascinating and inspiring tale. Initially a loose collection of displaced Touareg musicians centred around Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who, although born in Mali, grew up in the refugee camps near the Malian border in Algeria and later around the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset following the suppression of the Touareg people by the new independent Malian government in the early 1960’s.

Coming together in the late 1970’s with a shared passion for everything from traditional Touareg music & poetry to western rock and pop artists such as Hendrix, Santana, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin, the collective steadily built their reputation in and around the Sahara desert.

I like this song, too. It starts out a bit rough (actually, they all do) and suddenly you’re in the middle of transcendent blues, right there in the middle of the desert:

Okay, this might not be for everybody, but at least on this side of the Atlantic I can well understand why this music is so popular.

And that’s only the beginning.