What we produce, is music of the heart. We make every mask out of love. When you play music, peace prevails. When you play music, unity prevails. You link arms as brothers and sisters. The instrument is my soul, I was born for this. Each instrument has its orator. Nothing was written, everything was oral. Our histories were accompanied by music, always. The traditional instruments are my strength, they support me. They make me who I am.
Mali has always been married to its tradition. Mali has been the capital of the Manding empire for 7 centuries. If our children know our culture, they can’t get lost. If you follow your forefather’s footsteps, you can’t get lost.
Here, we have only known brotherhood and solidarity. So how did jihadists and terrorists come to Mali? These last years, there is no Peace. Outsiders brought us things we have not known before. They have brought us a sadness that we did not know before. When the religious extremists came, they did not like our music. They broke all of our instruments, even the n’gonis.
If these instruments no longer exist, we have lost everything. I do not know how we will pass on our history. Because the music itself permits us to know our past, to help us live, even today.
There is insecurity at home, we can’t play like before. Before, we would play every night, when we wanted, where we wanted. But now, it’s not like before. It’s a little risky. Through music, we can have peace. We can convey a message of peace that will reach everyone.
I make it my mission to educate people. To raise the youths awareness. Raise the consciousness,and provoke reflection. Because in the building of a state, of a nation, every person has a role to play. They have their role in the political management.
We the youth, all we want is to live like everybody else. Live in peace and liberty, free to do what we want. Like everyone else in fact. That’s all.
This is a full playlist of the i4Africa series on Musical Traditions in Mali. The following ten vignettes are mini-documentaries about traditional music and dance in Mali in the words of practicing artists and musicians.
This series was made possible by a grant from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. A special thanks goes out to the Public Affairs Department at the US Embassy in Bamako.
“In past times, I would not point this horsetail at a person who did not make blood flow.” The Bolon (Warrior’s harp) is the instrument of the Warrior Kings of Mandé. While other ethnic groups play a similar instrument, according to Ibrahim Traoré, he is the only person playing the Mandinka Bolon in Mali today.
Function of Tradition: The bolon is a warrior’s harp and was played to give courage to men going to the battlefront. It was played after the battle to celebrate the victory, and during the execution of captives who refused to surrender and swear allegiance to their new masters.
Reason for disappearance: The royal wars no longer exist. Those who ruled are no longer in power. The traditional social systems of Mandé have been replaced through colonialism, independence, and democracy. Those who had the power are now without. It is suggested that the individuals who worked with the colonial powers were actually people of caste, and have replaced the true nobility. Learning to play the bolon is not easy. The world of the bolon is dangerous. One must be well educated in the knowledge of plants and spells in order to navigate safely.
The masks of Fadiobougou, In the cultural zone of Djitoumou, serve many purposes. For the Bambara, just hearing the word Djinn is terrifying. The masks imitate things found in the bush. After seeing the imitations, peoples knowledge of it can stop them from panicking. The experience can help you overcome your fear. In the fall, if there has been a good harvest, the village prepares the masks to organize the celebration. On that day, everyone is peaceful and and they forget all their grudges. Both old and young respect each other. The masks bring people together, and promote social cohesion.
Function of tradition: If there is a good a harvest, the people organize the celebration. This celebration promotes peace and social cohesion. The masks prepare people for what they may encounter in the bush, whether it’s the supernatural djinn, or a wild animal. The encounter between the villagers and the masks teach them how to react when the find themselves confronted with an actual situation.
Reason for disappearance: Today, many people are more interested in music from other regions like Wassoulou, and other forms of music, both national and international, that they hear on the radio, television, and Internet. Among the youth, hip-hop is far more popular than traditional music. Nigerian pop music has also become very popular in Mali.