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Festival au désert in exile

- an exiled caravan from the deserts of Mali

“Until the music can return to its roots with freedom of expression and dignity, the Festival au Desert has become, a Festival in Exile.” –Manny Ansar, festival director, Festival au Désert

From 2001 until last year, the Festival au Désert – The Festival in the Desert – has been a colourful annual event in Mali, boasting exciting collaborations of  Tuareg musicians and visiting artists from other parts of the world. In 2010, the event was moved from the remote Essakane region closer to the outskirts of Timbuktu due to security reasons. When the North Mali conflict broke out in 2012 it was decided that the next festival had to be postponed: Armed groups of religious extremists threatened to silence all forms of musical expression, endangering the festival to a point where it was not safe to arrange.

The bold musicians would not be stopped, however. This summer, a Caravan for Peace comprising Malian musicians has been touring the USA and Canada, and in the Nordic countries several organisations in cooperation have established the concept of a Festival in Exile. At Oslo World Music Festival this year, the festival can be arranged in a safe environment as well as becoming available to an audience that would never be able to come to the Malian desert. In addition, the exiled festival is a means to awaken our conscience towards musical freedom when we become aware that the free expression of music cannot be taken for granted. This freedom is threatened in many countries, and in Mali ancient musical traditions are at stake because they have been prohibited by law.

This February, Festival au Désert was granted the Freemuse prize. Freemuse is an organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers and fighting censorship. This year was the first time an organisation was given the prize.

The programme for our Festival in Exile is as follows:

Wednesday, 30 October: Music as a Weapon – a talk at the Nobel Peace Centre gathering musicians and event-makers from Africa and the Middle East to discuss the role of music in conflict zones.

Thursday, 31 October: Rokia Traoré, one of Mali’s most influencial artists, visits Norway for the second time this year, this time at Sentrum Scene. When she played at Blå in June, she spellbound the audience with her powerful and atmospheric performance.

Saturday, 2 November is the day of the Festival in Exile at Rockefeller. A unique blend of great gigs will make this an unforgettable live experience!

Takamba Super Khoumeissa – this outfit consists of six musicians and four dancers keeping the Takamba tradition alive. Takamba is a musical form practiced in special occasions – an energetic and intense genre driven by the strings of the Ngoni and the rhythmical percussion of the Calabasse. The dancers, both sitting and standing, visualise the dynamics of the rhythm. Few bands do takamba better than Super Khoumeissa!

Imarhan N´Tinezraf– an Algerian musical collective using reverberating guitars and vocal harmonies to redefine traditional Tuareg music. The members claim that their atmospheric soundscapes are directly inspired by the desert: The dry, lifeless and endless sand dunes influence the creation of a music that, as a sharp contrast to Super Khoumeissa’s rhythmical energy, is thoughtful and almost meditative.

Atlanter – what is more natural than throwing in a bit of Norwegian presence amongst the Tuaregs this day? Atlanter is a Norwegian band drawing a lot of influence from African guitar music, and there is a link between them and the other artists on the festival when it comes to rhythm and melody. In addition, Jens Karelius and his team has taken inspiration from German krautrock and American blues, and seasoned it with their own influence from the Norwegian nature. Interestingly enough, the name of their debut album is Vidde – a Norwegian word for mountain plateau, the most Norwegian of landscapes.

Vieux Farka Touré – througout several records, Vieux has developed his own twist to the traditional, acoustic style of blues so characteristic of Mali. However, it is not until his latest release, Mon Pays, that he has created something that can be called an important cultural document. On this record we find musical and lyrical interpretations of the contemporary situation in Mali, comments on religion and execution of power, longing and hope for the future, honouring nods to his father and other musicians from the previous generation – everything captured in a rich sound picture carrying the listener through a landscape of melancholy, but optimism. Vieux Farka Touré creates music that connects the rich Malian past to a careful hope for what is to come.

Sunday, 3 November: Vieux Farka Touré visits Kulturhuset with a special performance on the last day of the festival. Vieux is the son of Ali Farka Touré, the multitalented musician who was listed in Rolling Stone Magazine as number 76 out of the 100 most influencial guitarists of the world. Ali Farka Touré died in 2006, but his son has taken up the heritage – even if the father wanted him to stay away from music. Throughout several records, Vieux has developed his own twist to the traditional, acoustic style of blues so characteristic of Mali. However, it is not until his latest release, Mon Pays, that he has created something that can be called an important cultural document. On this record we find musical and lyrical interpretations of the contemporary situation in Mali, comments on religion and execution of power, longing and hope for the future, honouring nods to his father and other musicians from the previous generation – everything captured in a rich sound picture carrying the listener through a landscape of melancholy, but optimism. Vieux Farka Touré creates music that connects the rich Malian past to a careful hope for what is to come.  (NOTE: ID: 20 years)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SExQ1EuzKM&list=PLCB4EEEE680BD23CF
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW_DKxfqmTU
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7l7E_35Vgg
Text: Kristian Krohg-Sørensen

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