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To Encourage Malians of Burkina Faso to return, Refugee Musicians use Music to send Powerful Message of Peace and Understanding

A jihadist takeover of the north, did the unthinkable, they banned music, something Malians cannot imagine

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FILE - The Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania was set up for people fleeing violence in northern Mali and is home to more than 64,000 people, May 23, 2012. It was the unlikely site of a concert of Malian music. VOA
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Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), November 25, 2016: In 2012, a coup kicked off a diaspora of Malians from which the country has not yet recovered. Malians fled by the hundreds of thousands and ended up in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.

After a Tuareg rebellion, a coup in Bamako, and then a jihadist takeover of the north, religious extremists held sway and did the unthinkable — they banned music, something Malians cannot imagine.

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Music to unite

But some refugee musicians hope they can use music to encourage Malians to return, unite and shun the extremist groups that briefly controlled the country’s north.

Malians call them jeli — storytellers — whose work is to conserve history and make social commentary. Their existence is absolutely central to Malian identity.

This music comes from a tradition that goes back 800 years. It has been kept alive by families, in this case the Kouyatés and Diabatés.

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When the Malians fled, some arrived in the remote Mbera Camp in eastern Mauritania, where they remain.

‘Partied for two nights’

Manny Ansar, the director of the celebrated Festival in the Desert, recounts how he arrived at the camp with a group of artists from all corners of Mali. He did not quite know how the welcome would be.

“If you’re a minister or another politician,” he said, “and you show up at the camp, the refugees will throw stones at you.”

But in the end, the reception was warm and overwhelming.

“That’s the power of culture,” Ansar said.

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In Mbera Camp, an unlikely setting for a concert, people pulled together to build a stage using sandbags as support material. For 50,000 people living so far from home, this was the first time they could reconnect with their country and its music.

“We just partied for two nights,” Ansar told VOA.

Concerts on three continents

The concert in Mauritania is one of a series of concerts on three continents. It’s called the Cultural Caravan for Peace, and Ansar has been the driving force behind it.

The caravan has two main aims, he said. One is to contribute to reconciliation in Mali. And nothing can carry this message more effectively than music. Seeing singers and musicians from the northern, central and southern parts of Mali on a stage together sends a powerful message of peace and understanding.

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The other purpose of the caravan is to offer a different voice to the seductive sound of jihadist extremism, the ideology that sent so many of Mali’s musicians into exile.

This call for unity and against extremism is traveling around the world. There are stops in Morocco, where the caravan joins with the Taragalt Festival on the edge of the Sahara Desert; Ségou, on the Niger River, Burkina Faso. And next year, Malian music will dazzle crowds in Europe and the United States.

The Cultural Caravan for Peace will be in the United States, May 1 to June 7, 2017. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)