Music in Mali – Festival in the Desert

By Martin Roth

My subscription copy of Songlines has arrived, with a cover story, “Top 25 Mali Albums.” I’ve been a fan of Malian music for more years than I can remember, and I have some of the recordings on the list.

In fact, my novel “Festival in the Desert” originated from an article in Songlines. Back in the October 2011 issue I read a cover story on the Touaregs – the desert nomads of the Sahara – with the following:

The Touareg rebellion has been knocked squarely off the front page by the murderous presence of mafia gangs posing as Islamist extremist militias allied to Al Qaeda…But elsewhere fear roams the desert. Traffickers who used to carry a quaint payload of Marlboro cigarettes, illegal diesel and cooking oil, now transport hard drugs, weapons and humans. Planeloads of cocaine fly in from South America, disgorge their corrosive cargo into huge convoys of 4x4s which disappear eastward towards Egypt and the Middle East.

I knew at once I had the material for an exciting novel. And the novel was actually right up-to-date with events. It was about Islamist extremists and their efforts to kick out Westerners and take over the society. And as it was being published Islamic extremists associated with Al Qaeda did take over a large part of the region, expelling all Westerners.

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