In 2012 Islamic extremists took over Northern Mali imposing one of the harshest interpretations of shari'a law in history and banning all music.
Music is the beating heart of Malian culture. It is through music that Mali’s oral history, news and identity is shared. This is the only culture in the world to have a class of musicians in society - they are known as the Griots, and for centuries their culture has been passed equally from mother to daughter, father to son.
But that all changed on Wednesday, 22 August 2012, when a spokesman for MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) declared music officially banned.
The ancient library in Timbuktu and other sacred sites, including mosques, were trashed. Mobile phone towers were destroyed, radio stations were torched, musicians were sought out and their instruments set alight. Citizens found with musical ringtones on their phones were targeted.
Mali’s Musicians went underground, or fled across borders. It was the largest mass migration the Southern Sahara has ever seen. Those who stayed were shocked into submission, complying with, and even helping to enforce strict shari’a principles: stoning adulterers to death, hacking off hands of suspected criminals, and the public whipping of women for failing to wear a veil.
Our film follows Mali’s musicians on a journey to bring back music - and peace - to their country.
"Music is important as a daily event. It's not just a business, for it's through our music that we know history and our own identity". Manny Ansar, director of the Festival in the Desert
Despite the horror of the conflict, Malian musicians have chosen to stand up to the ban. Rather than lay down their instruments, the musicians have found their latent fighting spirit. Through their stories, we document the actions of a nation standing up for its cultural heritage and its right to sing. This is a story about the battle to save Mali.
“The current tragedy of Mali is intensified by its tradition of tolerance. Its strand of gentle Sufism could not be further removed from the hate-fuelled Islamists of al-Qaida.” The Independent
Our film will focus on musicians like Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, lead singer of the band Tartit, whose husband is one of the key players in the conflict. Toumani Diabate and his son Sidiki, master Kora players who come from 72 generations of Griots before them. Khaira Arby, the “Nightingale of the North”, who was told she would have her tongue cut out by the jihadists. We will also follow the efforts of Manny Ansar, the director of the country’s greatest music festival, perhaps the most remarkable festival in the world, The Festival in the Desert.
Though small groups of musicians have been meeting in the desert for centuries, the Festival in the Desert was officially founded in 1991 to create a cultural, and curative, bridge between the northern Touareg musicians and those in the South. Over the years it has attracted a huge amount of press attention as well as stars such as Bono and Robert Plant.
Manny and his team are desperate for the Festival to re-launch in 2014. For many, the Festival's hopeful return has become the symbol that Malians have finally defeated the extremists and restored their culture. But at the moment, security issues may mean another year of silence.
The songs currently being written by Malian musicians about the conflict and the infringement on their freedom of expression will create a moving soundtrack that not only enhances, but creates the narrative itself.
"They want to ban music? They will have to kill us first." Fadimata Disco Walet Oumar
Our team began to follow this story in February 2013, after the start of the conflict. We plan to film until April 2014, allowing four to six months of post-production and creation of online transmedia projects.
WHY WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
So what will your money help us do? Simply put it will fund our next 2 filming trips which allows us to follow crucial moments in our musician's personal stories.
We have funded our journey so far our out of our own pockets, and those of a few generous souls, and we will continue to defer any payments to ourselves. But after giving so much of their time already, we’d love to pay our crew and consultants. They have been incredibly generous and their dedication is an inspiration to us all.
What your money will pay for:
- Director of Photography - Karelle Walker
- Fixer - Mohamed ag Hamalek - our amazing man on the ground
- Camera and sound equipment
- Flights & Transport
- Accommodation and Food
- Security - Due to the nature of the areas we are filming we can’t go in alone. Only last week two French journalists were kidnapped and then killed in the Northern Mali town of Kidal. Traveling with trained security remains an important element of this project.
Our target figure is £30,000 and we have just 30 days to raise it.
As per Kickstarter rules, if we don't reach our £30,000 target, we get nothing.
However, in reality we need a lot more to complete the entire film.
Please do continue to give beyond our target and we will put your money to good use on the ground in Mali following this important story.
If you cannot donate, please help in other ways! Spread the word – send this link to anyone you can think of who may be able to donate. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
If you like the music featured in the trailer above, here is where you can find it and many more amazing Malian and World music artists.
Risks and challenges
Mali is still a country fighting to regain peace. After the horrors in 2012 and early 2013, things seemed to be going more smoothly over the summer. The Presidential election progressed, refugees began to think there was a chance of returning home and the Festival in the Desert announced that the show would indeed go on.
But then came September - fresh outbreaks of fighting in the North, suicide bombs in Timbuktu, and the kidnapping and execution of two French journalists in Kidal. Just a few weeks ago, the French Army, along with the UN, launched yet another operation in Mali to weed out Islamist fighters.
As a film crew working on the ground we are there to meticulously document the events as they unfold. Due to the conflict, the most important challenge we face is ensuring the safety of our crew and contributors. It goes without saying that the outcome of these struggles affect the lives of our musicians, and therefore our narrative. We will continue to document the events in Mali as they happen, in real time, and will continue to be safe. Part of your donation will be spent on taking the appropriate safety precautions whilst filming.
We don't know what's going to happen with this story and the lives of the musicians we are following -but we do know its an amazing story and one we want to share with you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)