The African country of Mali has spent two months under a state of emergency following the November 20th terror attack at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital city, Bamako. Twenty hostages were killed, with two separate jihadist groups claiming responsibility. Ever since, the country has lived under the fear of further attacks — but as Eagles of Death Metal proved with their return to France, no threat can keep the music quiet for long.
Over the weekend, Damon Albarn, Tony Allen, Songhoy Blues, and more took part in the Festival Acoustik, an event set up by Albarn’s longtime collaborator Toumani Diabate. By holding the festival right in Bamako, the concert’s organizers hoped to revive the country’s vibrant cultural scene in the face of terrible tragedy and violence.
“It’s very important for me, for us, to get Malian culture going,” Diabate told The Telegraph. “You see Mali is the heart of culture in Africa.”
Songhoy Blues’ singer Allou Toure recalled how he and his bandmates were forced out of northern Mali after jihadists invaded in 2012. “For us it was a way of resisting,” he said of performing at Festival Acoustik. “Playing in Bamako, where we find ourselves, it gives us comfort. Our dream is to return home one day, to bring life back to the suffering people.”
For his part, Albarn acknowledged that he’d spent a lot of time in the region, but this particular visit was unique. “I was invited on this occasion, so that’s even more special, really, to sort of be invited back,” he said in an interview with AFP. “I’m fascinated by it. It’s very tangible to me because of the music and the value of the music.”
The state of emergency is set to end on March 31st following a three-month extension at the end of last year. Either way, the music will play on. Below, watch Albarn take in some music and talk about the event, followed by a montage of performances from the four-day festival’s closing evening, including Albarn’s.
Damon Albarn Interview:
Festival Acoustik Performances: