A building in Mali

Discover the Heartbeat of Mali: How Music Defines It's Identity

There is a nation in west Africa. This nation values music more than many other things.


In their culture, they sing daily rituals. Music is important socially, economically, and politically to this nation.


Radical jihadists planning to destroy the identity of Mali started a coup years ago. Unfortunately, it has nearly crippled the country.
Even with low-level fighting taking place, these extremists plan to ban this nation's music.


The flag of Mali


How is music important to Mali?



Music is the heart of the country’s national identity; it values music more than many other nations.


In Mali, music is part of many daily rituals. In the country, talented musicians known as ‘griots’ sing at funerals, weddings, and birth ceremonies.


Singing is a big part of daily life in Mali, and participating in festivals, ceremonies, and dances. The most significant annual festival in Mali is a musical concert called “Festival au Désert” [“Festival in the Desert].


This festival plays traditional music created by Tuareg. This festival is a beautiful, vibrant part of their proud, traditional, and beautiful music culture. It attracts thousands from other countries, mainly before the war.






What is the most significant city in Mali?


The most significant city in Mali is Bamako, the capital of Mali. The most prominent Universities, museums, and zoos are all in this city. But, the town that was especially important in this country is Timbuktu.


It was the beginning of the transportation of goods north of the city. The city is also close to the Niger River, so trade thrived there at the west and east branches of the waterway. Today though, it is an impoverished city.


This city, though, had a strong legacy. It has been thriving since the 12th century.


It became a learning center with many universities in the 14th century CE. At that time, the ruler of the Mali Empire, Mansa Musa, created historic universities that became hubs for Islamic teachings across Africa.


During the height of the Malian civil war in 2013, when French-Malian troops captured Timbuktu, fires were set, which put the nail in the coffin of the city. At one point, Timbuktu had a 25,000-student university. Slowly, the town has become irrelevant, poor, and a fragment of the past.



A building in Timbuktu 


Why do radical jihadists want to ban this nation's music?


In 2012, The Mali War started a continuous battle between the northern and southern parts of the country. Extreme groups like Islamic states are rebellious in the northern area.


These jihadist groups want to enforce complete Sharia law. That requires them to ban the ancient music that had united the people of Mali (mostly Bambara people) for centuries.


Most people in southern Mali have the same ethnicity and culture. However, historically, the northern part of the country has been more diverse, with people of other belief systems and ethnicities.


Mali's government tries to support and defend this culture actively.


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