File Under: Man’s Inhumanity to Man (Revisited)

This hurts my heart and devastates my soul.

It makes me furious and leaves me deeply distressed. And with a helplessness that at once causes me to question my belief in humanity and at the same time feel radically energized knowing all we have done, and are still capable of doing.

Story HERE, but the long and short of it is thus: legend and one-time mayor of Niafunke, Ali Farka Touré’s music is now banned in Mali. Worse, all music is currently banned because of the backward, self-hating, world-affronting imbecility of the religious sociopaths who are further defaming their centuries old Muslim religion. (More on the practical imbalance –in human terms– of all religions, another time.)

Here’s the long and short of this disgrace:

Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda have banned everything they deem to be against Sharia, or Islamic law. “They are destroying our culture,” says another of Mali’s most famous singers, Salif Keita. He is currently back home in Mali, preparing for a world tour to accompany the release of his latest album.”If there’s no music, no Timbuktu, it means that there is no more culture in Mali,” he adds, sitting in the grounds of his home on the small island he owns on the river Niger outside the capital, Bamako. Keita is referring to the destruction in June of the ancient shrines in Timbuktu’s mosques. The buildings were Unesco World Heritage Sites but considered by the Islamists to be idolatrous.

Father of the astonishingly gifted Vieux Farke Touré (whom I’ve gushed about HERE), Ali was not just Mali’s greatest artistic ambassador, he was (is) Mali. The unique sound he developed, over decades, brought this culture and artistry to the rest of the world, and it remains instructive to hear the deep connection between African “desert” blues and the earliest field hollers that birthed an American idiom. (As ever, art showing us how alike we are, and when stripped bare of possessions, petty grievances and misplaced emotions, we crave similar things and find resonating ways to express our joys and sorrows.)

I am genuinely humbled that I had the opportunity to see him perform, in an intimate venue, during the scorching hot summer of 2000. It remains one of the most moving and spiritual evenings of music I’ve witnessed. (“If I don’t see you again, I’ll see you all in heaven,” he said before he left the stage.) When I consider he’s gone, it always saddens me, but I can –and often do– listen to his music and it inspires me. The thought of him being silenced, by craven fanatics, in his homeland, is insufferable. It is an insult to life, a thumb in the eye of evolution and a brazen act of disobedience against the very God these bullies and brutes ostensibly worship. It is an intolerable act that we must not abide.

I’ve written about him HERE, and I considered his (solo) swan song, Savane one of the 50 best albums of the last decade (more on that list HERE). Here is what I had to say, in 2010:

When Mali legend Ali Farka Touré passed on in 2006, the world was robbed of one of its most important musicians. Granted, Touré was well into his seventh decade, but considering how late he was “discovered” (by the western world, in large part thanks to national treasure Ry Cooder), it still feels like we got cheated. On the other hand, that we found him at all, and have the work he left behind is a miracle with a capital M. If you are reading this and want to indulge me only one time, don’t hesitate to pick up everything you can find by this genius (and if you want a place to start, you simply can’t go wrong with either The Source or his aforementioned collaboration with Cooder, Talking Timbuktu).

Savane, the album Ali was working on when he began to succumb to the cancer that eventually claimed him, was released posthumously in 2006. It features the same deep, dark, profound expression (the CD cover acknowledges Ali as “king of the desert blues”) that Touré spent a lifetime perfecting, and it’s a very bittersweet swan song.

Priceless footage from those last sessions, HERE.

Writing about the posthumous release of his second –and final– collaboration with the brilliant Toumani Diabaté, I concluded my review thusly:

This is a deep, darkly beautiful work. The interplay between these two men is exceedingly rare in any type of music. Ali and Toumani is profound and powerful, with a soft accumulating force, like the individual drips of ice that form a river. This desert music is very much like the desert itself: it is expansive and immutable, and it will endure.

That sentiment is stronger than ever, and the truth of this statement is unassailable. No puny, pathetic human beings with hate choking their hearts will be able to silence this music for long. One thing is certain, this music will be living long after these forgettable cowards are long gone, blown back into the earth that they defiled.

*The image at the top of this post, incidentally, is the statue that purpotedly inspired Ozymandias, taken from the immortal poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I will continue to cherish and celebrate the man and his music as long as I’m alive. I encourage you to do the same: acquire it, enjoy it, spread it around, and do your part to help LOVE defeat HATE.


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